A public installation driven by community conversation, 2013

Harambee DSC04537

Published on October 31st, 2013 | by adamcarr


Shiloh Tabernacle Leaders Session

After the business of the day finished, the saints and leaders of Shiloh Tabernacle joined us for an evening session. Participants included — Reverend Jordan, Earline Jordan,Deacon Paul Carter, Brigette Quezaire, Thoreasa Holt, and Chris Jones.

We began with tales of the incomparable Lady Pitts, the legendary founder of Shiloh Tabernacle. Pastor Jordan then shared the  story of the night he was saved. We finished with history of the church’s investment in the community and questions the group wanted to pose to their broader neighborhood.

Below, find excerpts from that conversation.

Lady Pitts ( founder of Shiloh)

All of them, that family, are from Georgia — they came up around 1922.

She wasn’t that educated. Only about 8 grades-worth.

The Lord directed her to start a church to meet the needs of the people in the community.

She named it Shiloh Tabernacle, which means “an oasis in the desert.”

She was a quiet, easy, soft-spoken lady — she was smooth. I never saw her ruffled. A quiet confidence.

So she set her church up in a storefront — little benches and all.

She knew they would come.

She shouted, “I’m sure! I’m sure!”

Someone peeked in the door and all they saw was this little lady. Lady Pitts. Preaching and singing.

They’d laugh at her — “She’s in there preaching to benches!”

She had another dream — a school for unwed mothers.

Even members of her own family thought she shouldn’t have been preaching to those benches.

She had faith and it grew.

And they came. They came to hear her.

The little storefront that Lady Pitts established — there were so many members, the space was too small.

When the Lord took Lady Pitts home, her sister was ordained.

Lady Pitts was a praying lady and her sister was the opposite — she was a warrior.

Lady Pitts had the dream — Dolly Barry made it happen.

She’s dead, but her name is still ringing around here.

Pastor Jordan gets saved

I was a thug — one of the bad dudes.

My motto was, “Do unto others as they would do unto you — but do it first!”

That Friday night, I was out there drinking wine with them and a boy named Sunny Kirksey came up.

I heard, “Sunny done got sanctified.”


We got to talking.

I told him I’d go with him to church, but by 4 o’clock I changed my mind.

But he came early and got me.

“I know I need to do it, but what am I doing up in here?”

So I sat and listened.

( It was Dolly Barry.)

Back then, those people meant business.

“Somebody here wants to give their life to the Lord.”

“What’s she talking about me for?”

So I goes up there.

“Save me Jesus. Save me Jesus. Save me Jesus.”

After awhile, it wasn’t coming from my mouth no more.

“I’m sorry. For all that stuff I’ve done.”

I got up, looked around, and I wanted to sing.

When I got up off the altar, everybody looked good.

“Look at all these pretty people!”

The weight had dropped.

A man doesn’t do nothing but what he wants to do.

The Lord saved me in one night.

The church

All these people that are grown folks now? We raised them.

We had a youth center downstairs — four lanes of bowling, pool table, ping pong table, wrestling mats. All that.

If they didn’t behave, we put ’em out.

The Blackstone Rangers out of Chicago, they were coming up to Milwaukee. It fizzled into what we were doing.

We did have control of our kids, so it wasn’t able to disrupt too bad.

Someday, Shiloh Manor.

What we’re talking about is not permanent.

Invisible but real.

Our teachers. They worked to shape minds to go back into the community.

Sister Irvin. Sister Johnson. Brother Bradley.

At first they didn’t accept me, but I kept on.

And then David took the stone…

Our idea is this — start inside.

Go out to the highways and hedges and compel them to come.

The neighborhood.

It was the main drag and I was in the heart of it.

We fought with our fists.

“If he’s looking for me, he’s going to find me.”

I tried to get a story together for when I saw her next.

To let them know what happened to me.

I’ve cried a lot of times on this walk.

I don’t know how, but I’m going to raise these six kids.

I worked third shift, got off about 7 in the morning, go home, fix them breakfast, get ’em dressed — I even learned to braid hair.

I’ll take care of him — you go to bed.

I’ve been here all my life.

Right now, I look at all these young people getting shot — I wish I was younger. I wish I was younger.


-Why do we feel our separation so strongly?

-How will you see what you’re blind to?

-Why do we have to hide?

-Why do we have to run away from each other?

-Why don’t I step in?

-Why don’t I get deeper into it?

-Why am I so delicate about my excuses?

-Why are you afraid of being hurt?

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  • TypeFace in Harambee

    Puzzled and Amazed is located at Five Points, between Keefe and MLK Blvd on Port Washington

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