By Christine G. Sabathia and Evan Barnes Sentinel Staff Writers
Bishop Hamel Hartford Brookins is well-known as an undeniable force in the house of God, specifically in the case of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. But what many may not be so familiar with is that he has been just as influential in the political arena. In a soon-to-be-released documentary, Emmy Award winning producer David Henry and co-producer Tonette Hayes will bring to light the journey the bishop made as a political advisor and mentor to many.
His influence on such political giants spans from former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and former President Bill Clinton, to civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Those who have lived to tell of his significance, such as Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Congresswoman Diane Watson, will be featured in the documentary its producers consider a long-overdue piece of history.
“Bishop Brookins has been around for a few decades,” chuckles Henry, “where he played a big part in pretty much every big politician’s life.”
“So our objective,” adds Hayes, “is to let everybody know that this is coming and that it’s going to be explosive.”
Hayes says that although there have been people who have tried to tell the bishop’s story, none have taken the angle that Henry has.
“People have tried to tell his story from simply a religious aspect, but Bishop Brookins is bigger than that... He is an African American man that in a time it was not ‘fashionably acceptable’ was able to go behind closed doors with high-level politicians in order to open other doors for other minorities. He also had influence over those politicians-to-be,” she continued. “And since his first encounter with the bishop this past July 4, David (Henry) has been totally engrossed in his story and committed to this project in order to make sure it gets out there in tasteful content and that the true man Bishop Brookins is will be portrayed.”
The documentary will show the Bishop’s vision of cultivating leaders for the African American community of Los Angeles, a community he considered a whole new world full of undiscovered potential.
“There was all the potential in the world but nothing was going on,” recalled Bishop Brookins of his days in the pulpit. “There was no attachment, and that’s why I really got involved.
“The whole community was more in need than the church.”
So the bishop took to the pulpit every Sunday preaching his sermons while at the same time cultivating members of his congregation on what they should be doing right in their own community. One figure in particular was Tom Bradley, who under the guidance of Bishop Brookins became Los Angeles’ second African American mayor.
The bishop’s relationship with Bradley and many others will be detailed this fall in the documentary entitled, “The Bishop That Makes a Difference.”
In addition to telling Bishop Brookins’ personal story, the documentary will also incorporate the history of the AME church as well as its continued work in the community.