Barry Saunders

After a violent crime against him, a minister finds a message of hope – Saunders

The Rev. Farleyson Tarley
The Rev. Farleyson Tarley

The love I saw in us was, apparently, just a mirage.

Since Nov. 9, a case could’ve anecdotally been made that brothers were mellowing out, turning toward instead of on each other because of the changing political tide. To wit:

▪ A dude in a gray Maxima let me slide in in front of him – no, he actually waved me in in front of him – during rush hour when my lane abruptly ended because of construction work on Six Forks Road recently.

▪ Another dude was magnanimous when I dialed his number by mistake – at 3 a.m. We actually chatted for a couple of minutes as he assured me I hadn’t awakened him from a deep sleep.

▪ More and more, I’ve noticed the return of the formerly automatic, barely perceptible “S’up?” head nod, the disappearance of which older cats have lamented for the past two decades.

Well, saints, proclaiming a return of the Era of Good Feelings may be premature. If not premature, then word apparently didn’t reach three armed hoods who robbed and pistol-whipped the Rev. Farleyson Tarley in Durham last week.

While anyone who has a heart and brain and understands U.S. history is aghast at the president-elect’s verbal assault on living legend John Lewis, we should be equally outraged by the physical assaults on regular people in our communities.

No, we should be more outraged. Nothing said by the new president or a bunch of bigoted lawmakers – one in Georgia just called Lewis a “racist pig” – is going to harm Lewis’ reputation in the least. Those pistol butts against his head and Timberlands to the ribs hurt the Rev. Tarley a lot more than anything a detractor says about Rep. Lewis.

Tarley, associate pastor of the People Christian Church on Harvard Avenue, was set upon at the beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Speaking with the lyrical lilt of his native Liberia and sounding like someone King would admire, he told me Tuesday, “My desire is to bring deliverance to those who are in captivity, to help those who are blind to recover their sight (figuratively) and to heal the brokenhearted.”

The assault has not deterred him from his mission, but before he can heal broken hearts, he has to heal that broken cheekbone and eye socket he received.

Tarley, 57, had left his small church after an evening of fellowship Friday, stopped off for a few minutes to visit a friend, then headed home. He’d just pulled up to the front of his apartment complex in his 2004 Nissan about 9:30 p.m. when another car pulled into the space behind him.

“Before I could turn my engine off, three guys jumped out of the car and ordered me out of the car. I opened the door to get out, and the first guy hit me on the back of my head with his weapon,” Tarley said. “He demanded that I give him everything I had. I put my hands up. They took my wallet and everything that was in my pocket. ... Amazingly, when I was trying to put the car in park, I left it in reverse and turned the engine off. They wanted to steal the car, but they did not have the wisdom to put it in park.

“They got furious, thinking I’d done something to the car so that it wouldn’t start,” he continued. “They hit me a couple of times and demanded to know how to start it. I kept saying, ‘Turn the key, turn the key.’ They were kicking me. ... Just before they left, I tried to lift up my head to see their license plate number. ... When I lifted up my head, he hit me with the handle of the gun. ... I moved my head just enough that I only broke my cheekbone.”


All three then fled, he said.

The police report I saw listed Tarley’s losses as a cellphone, wallet and $500.

No, Tarley said when asked, he didn’t usually carry that much money around with him. “The very car they were trying to carjack has major problems,” he said. He was having the transmission replaced, he said, and that money was going to be a down payment to the mechanic.

Tarley – instead of ruing his misfortune – is counting his blessings. “My wife and I usually ride together,” he said, “but God is so gracious that that day we drove separate cars. My wife could’ve been with me, and she would have been traumatized, or she would have shouted and they would have fired their weapons.

“That’s how good my God is,” he said. “I am very grateful that my wife is safe, I am safe.”

When I asked Tarley to describe his attackers, he said, “They were black, like I am.”

Boy, if I had a dollar for every time a crime victim I’ve interviewed said that. I resisted the urge to tell him that it ain’t all of us, but it’s too damned many of us.

The miracle I see in this story is Tarley’s magnanimity. The only reason he came forward to share his near-death experience is because he is – get this – concerned for the men who robbed and beat him.

“I am not angry at all. I am so happy,” he said, sounding so happy. “People don’t understand. My eye could have been busted, my brain could have been busted. ... I am frustrated because (his attackers) are blind. They do not see the way forward. Like Jesse Jackson says, keep hope alive. They see no hope. I am not mad at them. I just pray that the Holy Spirit will touch them so that they will not hurt anybody else.”

Tarley said he wants to “caution all my black brothers that we, as a people, shall not get the best out of life by killing one another, hurting one another or robbing one another. The Lord is calling on us to do good deeds, not evil. ... There are troubled times ahead, and we shall not go through these times by doing evil to one another.”


Of the men who attacked him, does he at least want God to smite them?


“They are totally forgiven,” he said, “I have no grudges, no bitterness. God has a good plan for them, but they ought to pursue it. I want them to become a productive, integral part of society.”

I told ya’: a freakin’ miracle.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9