He never quits

He never quits
December 14
05:00 2017

Busta’s Person of the Week

By Busta Brown

I walked into Dr. John Mendez office, and right away I saw the sculptures of some our greatest leaders. Mendez put his hand over each one as he explained the significance of each one.

“These are my heroes. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, when I come into my office, I’m depressed and sometimes want to quit,”  he says, “77 years old and I never quit.”

Afterward, Mendez looked at me. I could feel his spirit telling me not to quit. It was clear he could feel my recent struggle, and how I thought about quitting at times. Then he continued sharing his adoration for his heroes.

“Dr. King died too soon, but he was relentless in hanging in that struggle. Albert Einstein, a lot of people don’t know that when Du Bois was 90 and about to be arrested, Einstein came to his rescue and they dropped the charges against him when they knew he was coming. Fredrick Douglass, he was a great oratory and freedom fighter.” There were sculptures of Moses and Gandhi as well.

I noticed a picture of Mendez and a Native American gentleman. You could tell they were having an interesting conversation. You’ll see the picture during my YouTube interview. I asked about the picture, “The keeper of The Sacred Pipe of the Lakota Nation. When I first visited the Pine Ridge Reservation, the first thing he said to me, is you’re sitting in the same chair that Martin Luther King sat in. That’s why the Poor People’s Campaign is so important, because when he was organizing it, he went to Native Americans, Appalachia, everywhere.” 

I decided to look up the Lakota Nation, and here’s what I found. There are nine bands of Dakota and Lakota in Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan, with a total of 6,000 registered members. They are recognized as First Nations but are not considered “treaty Indians.” As First Nations, they receive rights and entitlements through the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada department. As I looked around Dr. Mendez’s office, I noticed another picture of him and another Native American gentleman. “That’s Tony,” he’s giving him an Eagle Feather. He said to me,” you should always come back to Mount Graham, to be renewed, our struggle is now your struggle.”

I looked up Mount Graham as well; it’s a mountain in southeastern Arizona in the United States. Mount Graham summits are headwaters for numerous perennial streams. Mendez has strong ties to Native Americans. His mother is half Native American, and her father was a medicine man. He said his grandfather supported his family through sales of the medicines that he made. “Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas was his area. That tradition fell to my mother. I grew up in Harlem and in Harlem and the Bronx, and she was affectionately referred to as The Medicine Woman. She loved her herbs and all of that.” He shared some history about the true struggle of Native Americans.

“The big struggle with Native Americans is around sacred sites and sacred rights.” You could see and feel his passion for Native Americans and their struggle.

We also talked about a serious struggle he fought right here in Winston-Salem some years ago, and that was freedom for Darryl Hunt who, in 1984, was wrongfully convicted for the rape and the murder of Deborah Sykes, a young white newspaper copy editor, and sentenced to life in prison. Hunt was held in prison until 2004, when he was fully exonerated of the murder and released after serving 19 1/2 years. His exoneration followed the confession by Willard E. Brown to the crimes. In 2003 a review of the state database found that Brown’s DNA matched that in the Sykes case, and in 2004 Hunt was formally exonerated. Mendez played a major role in Hunt’s defense fund. From New York to as far south as Mississippi, Dr. John Mendez has left a trail of experience as a social activist and community organizer. As a preacher, professor, philosopher and psychotherapist, Dr. Mendez’s contributions are far-reaching. When he is not in the pulpit at Emmanuel Baptist Church, located in Winston-Salem, where he has been the senior pastor since 1983, he can be found rallying for social causes here in the U.S., North Carolina and abroad. His latest alliance with the N.C. State NAACP president’s protest against the Republican-Tea Party’s insensitive devastating public policies has been a recent example.

Prior to coming to Emmanuel Baptist Church, Dr. Mendez served as senior pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, where he served for six years, 

Dr. Mendez received a BA from Shaw University in Raleigh; Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He is a graduate of the Post Graduate Center of Mental Health in New York City, in Pastoral Counseling, and most recently the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in Washington, D.C. Dr. Mendez and two other colleagues recently organized the Mind- Sight counseling and Consultation Services in Winston-Salem.

Check out my interview with Dr. John Mendez on our YouTube channel @  Winstonsalem Chronicle.

His accolades range from Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities to the Winston Salem’ Chronicle’s Man of the Year in 1994. He received the President’s Award of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

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