History, Chaplain Knowles and the sheriff
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:66)
By Rasheed Baaith
Recently history was made by Sheriff Scott Israel and Pastor Nathaniel Knowles. Sheriff Israel became the first Sheriff in the 98 years of the Bro-ward Sheriff’s Office to choose a Black man to hold the office of Chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office and Pastor Knowles was the Black man chosen.
Both are to be acknowledged. Sheriff Israel because he did not let history, tradition and the color of Pastor Knowles’ skin prevent him from recognizing his new Chaplain’s capabilities. While Knowles is highly educated, well trained and an experienced clergyman, he brings more sought after qualities to office: compassion, openness, a willingness to engage others for the sake of unity and a humble spirit.
Perhaps even more important, he never campaigned for the office; it requested him. While working as chaplain in a temporary assignment, those he ministered to were so impressed by his concern for them, his unfaltering presence whenever called or needed and the sincerity of his efforts that letters, cards and phone calls were made to the Sheriff on Knowles’ behalf.
In a day and time when excessive self-promotion is the new norm among many Clergymen and reputations are manufactured, not earned, to meet a Pastor like Chaplain Knowles is more than a little encouraging. The Broward Sheriff’s Office will be well served and so will the community at large. Pastor Knowles has been mentoring the young people of Deerfield Beach for the last 19 years and continues to pro-vide hope for them through the Gwen Clark Reed Initiative and has been involved in community engagement efforts all of his pastoral life. He is someone who has always “been there.”
His personal history is essential because it is very important we all understand that Knowles’ selection is not the result of political cronyism or some misguided tokenism. According to the Sheriff, he began to consider Knowles some six years ago.
And anyone who would give a sincere appraisal of Pastor Knowles will tell you he is more than capable of providing exactly what Sheriff Israel, the employees of BSO and all of us need from the person who holds the Cha-plain’s Office: someone who desires to serve as opposed to being known.
As far as the Sheriff is concerned, it takes courage, vision and an incredible fearlessness to give someone a responsibility no one who looks like that person has ever been given before. I have to honestly say I don’t believe any of the men who preceded him ever gave any thought to having a Black man as Chaplain.
It seems none of them could look past an outdated mindset or a man’s color. This Sheriff could and did look beyond both. And any opposition that came from his advisors.
No doubt the Israel tenure as Sheriff will have some difficult moments, perhaps even some disappointments for us; all administrations of a political office do. Even now there are rumblings in the Black community about Al Pollock not being made the Undersheriff and justifiably so.
Yet in spite of all that and in spite of what might later come, there will still be this moment in history that Sheriff Israel not only saw but strove to make real. He and Pastor Knowles are to be commended for the aspiration becoming real.
It is well worth applauding.