What does it look like to trailblaze a new path for those who follow after us? Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook is a woman of many “firsts,” who is willing to share the experiences that brought her into the careers and positions she has had during her lifetime. She speaks about her experiences in New York City during the Civil Rights Movement and 9/11, as well as shares her personal story.
Bio of Guest:
Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook (or Ambassador Sujay) is a national and international influencer as a US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom. She was the first female chaplain for the New York City Police Department, and the first and only female president of the historic Hampton U Ministers Conference. She has also formed the W.O.W. (Women onto Worldstage) movement, written 15 books, and given more than 4,000 sermons and speeches.
Notes and Quotes:
- “In the Civil Rights Era, it was a time of excitement and energy. It was ecstatic. . . . We walked the streets, particularly in Harlem . . . with Adam Clayton Powell; and the first Black judges were in our churches and the first Black lawyers. So every success was celebrated. . . . There was this healthy respect, but we were cheering everyone on. . . . It was the celebration of all the ancestors who went before us, who didn’t have a chance to stand on the steps of the Capitol, but they built the steps. You know?”
- “I, in my third-grade penmanship, penned a letter to that address thanking Dr. King and Mrs. King for coming to New York. Mrs. Coretta Scott King hand wrote me a note, saying, ‘Thank you. I received your letter.’ Fast forward, I became best friends with her eldest daughter, Yolanda. . . . And then when my mother dies, [Mrs. King] becomes my godmother. She says, ‘I’m your other mother now.’”
- “I knew when I got on the stage of Spain, I said, ‘I know I’m a world leader.’ I didn’t know how to figure that out at 14, but I knew there was something bigger than being on the corner of Yankee Stadium and the Bronx for me.”
- “Every time a new family moved into the building, we had a party. . . . We grew up with this healthy respect and appreciation for other cultures. So it wasn’t like, ‘You’re the West Indian, and you’re the Bosnian.’ It was like, ‘You’re my friend.’”
- “We all went to this church in Boston called St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the first time I saw professional Black Americans, brilliant Black Americans, Afro-centric Black Americans and Christians, all in one place. Where we did not have to apologize for either of those: being Afro-centric, being Black, being brilliant.”
- “They called me, as their first African-American in the American Baptist Churches, to be elected to a congregation in the 200-year history. We don’t know you’re making history when it’s happening.”
- A brass person is a high-ranking member of the military.
- “I saw for a moment, in a moment of hysteria, they were like, ‘Chaplain, will you pray with me?’ It didn’t matter whether you’re Black, White, female, male, Catholic, Baptist. So we joined hands, from these men mainly, who were exhausted, because they had been digging all day and all night and finding nothing. So New York City becomes my parish.”
- “Laws are broken, rules go out the window when you’re talking about human life.”
- “Who are my references? The police commissioner of the City of New York, the Mayor of the City of New York, the United States senator from New York. . . . When the White House Fellows office opens up, even if my application is not great, they’re going to see Senator Charles Schumer, Mayor David Dinkins, Commissioner. . . . So they’re going to at least read the second page.”
- “When we say, ‘God walks with us,’ God is already in the room that we enter.”
- “To be pastor, to be friend, to be daughter, beloved, to be moderator, officiant, to be former White House Fellow, and in this moment see all of these worlds converge, I said, “God, I was born for this.”
Links Mentioned in Show:
- Leave us a review here
- Free resource for email signup: Remembering 9/11: Facing Tragedy & Finding Hope, a booklet from Our Daily Bread that includes personal stories of how God worked through this senseless tragedy and gave people hope when they needed it most
- Rhythms of Rest by Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook: https://ourdailybreadpublishing.org/books/devotionals/rhythms-of-rest-1.html https://amzn.to/3j2ZD7B
- Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community by Dr. Martin Luther King: https://amzn.to/381TNwS
- You Were Born For This by Bruce Wilkinson: https://www.amazon.com/You-Were-Born-This-Predictable/dp/1601421834
- “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” (worship song)
- Follow Where Ya From? Podcast on Instagram: @whereyafrompodcast
- Visit our website to sign up for email: https://www.whereyafrom.org
Verses Mentioned in Show:
- Judges 4 (Deborah)
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