By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Thousands made the pilgrimage to New Psalmist Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore to bid farewell to the man President Barack Obama described as, “the very honorable Elijah E. Cummings.”
It was President Obama, beloved by so many in the community Cummings served that was the final speaker during his funeral, prior to the eulogy delivered by New Psalmist Pastor Walter Scott Thomas. But, Obama was just one of a phalanx of political titans that also traveled to Northwest Baltimore to pay homage to “the people’s Congressman.”
“Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven,” said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, illuminating the nexus between Cummings and the Bible’s Old Testament prophet. “But, he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes, but never lost his faith. Like that Old Testament prophet he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel,” Clinton said before being interrupted by applause and cheers. “And he looked out for the vulnerable among us. He lifted up the next generation of leaders. He even worked a few miracles,” she added.
The testimonials came from national political icons, members of Cummings’ staff and local leaders like Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, who revealed she and her husband named their first child after the late legendary Congressman. She also revealed Cummings was an ally from the first time they met. “Whenever we needed funding for mental health, child health, violence prevention, any program to help our residents, Congressman Cummings fought for us and got us the resources,” she said. “He told everyone how we in Baltimore are effective and efficient, how what we do is about saving lives…and every time he would speak to every member of my team to say thank you. He’d say thank you for turning your pain into your passion that is your purpose.”
The homegoing service for Cummings, the son of a sharecropper, who served the citizens of Baltimore, Maryland and the nation for more than three decades, lasted almost four hours. And among the dynamic speakers that shared their memories of the towering statesman was the poignant observations of his two daughters, Adia and Jennifer.
“My dad and I had a special bond one that spanned the 37 years of my life and the 37 years of his life of public service,” said Jennifer Cummings, the Congressman’s eldest daughter. She also alluded to her father instilling in her early on that she was beautiful in many ways. “Dad, thank you for teaching me the dual power of my beauty and my brilliance. This might sound boastful, but ever since I was a little girl, my dad always told me I was beautiful. That may sound basic and like a no-brainer, but dad wanted me to understand and appreciate my Blackness and truly feel that my rich brown skin was just as beautiful as alabaster, or any shade of the rainbow.”
Then his daughter Adia honored her father by acknowledging his diligent staff. “I just want to personally thank all of you,” she said. “The way that you loved my father makes us family forever and I’m so sorry that you lost someone who was much more than a boss to you.” Then she added, “I’m confident everyone in this room today knows exactly what type of man my father was. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. He was a passionate leader, a dependable friend, an unrelenting voice for change. His passion for his city, his state and his country was evident in his practices and his policies…but my sister and I were fortunate enough to hold the highest honor, which was being able to call him dad.”
As President Obama closed out the remembrances of Cummings prior to his eulogy he spoke about the sometimes perfunctory bestowing of the title “honorable.”
“There’s nothing weak about being honorable,” Obama said. “But, Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office,” added Obama with a booming voice, which was met with thunderous applause. “There’s a difference, there’s a difference if you are honorable and treated others honorably…as President I could always count on Elijah being honorable and doing the right thing.”