" I freed a thousand slaves. I could
have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves..." – Harriet
Recently, a group of Black pastors under
the name of the Hi Impact Coalition, held a press conference and
summit in Los Angeles to announce the kick off for their "Black
Contract with America on Moral Values." Led by Bishop Harry
Jackson of Washington and white Christian evangelical Reverend Lou
Sheldon and his Traditional
Values Coalition, the press conference and summit gave new meaning
to the phrase "Sleeping with the enemy."
According to the newly formed coalition,
topping the list of issues that Black Americans need to focus on
is the protection of marriage. Never mind the war, access to healthcare,
HIV/AIDS, education, housing and social security, the number one
problem facing Black America is same-sex marriage.
Standing before the press in their Sunday
best and eager to get their fifteen minutes of fame and achievable
share of President Bush's Faith Based Initiative, these Black pastors
seemingly allowed their pulpits to be purchased by the GOP and Lou
Sheldon, who is to gay people what Strom Thurmond was to Blacks.
Sheldon at one time even went so far as to support the quarantining
of people with AIDS and accused the federal government of "running
a network of whorehouses," when the U.S. responded to the AIDS
crisis with resources.
Later that afternoon over one hundred Black
pastors gathered at Reverend Fred Price's Crenshaw Christian Center,
another prominent mega-church, where Sheldon showed his infamous "Gay
rights, special rights" video and urged the pastors to have
their congregations lobby African American legislators who hadn't
taken a position on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Listening from the outside, one might have
thought they were listening in on a Klan meeting, but after one look
around the room, I remember thinking of Dave Chappelle's portrayal
of a blind Black white supremacist who had never been told he was
Black pulpits are for sale to the highest
bidder and Black Christians are quite possibly being sold to the
GOP under the guise of protecting America's moral values. With claims
that gays are "hi-jacking" the civil rights movement and
Martin Luther King Jr.'s message, Sheldon is bribing Black pastor
after pastor and church after church with check after check to take
another look at the GOP and partnering with their white Christian
counterparts all while using the Bible as a justification for their
commonality. Yes, the same book that was used to justify racism,
sexism and anti-Semitism has both Black and white Christian evangelicals
reading from the same page.
Few remember, that there were significant
members of the Black church including the National Baptist Convention
led by Dr. J.H. Jackson in the 50's that vehemently opposed the civil
rights movement and didn't want progressive ministers like Dr. King
to have any confrontations with the government. So much so, that
was one of the major factors in Dr. King's decision to create the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with Los Angeles ministers
Reverend James Lawson and the late Dr. Thomas Kilgore.
These Black pastors who have aligned themselves
with white Christian evangelicals and Conservatives, are the ideological
descendents of the same people who opposed Dr. King in the 50's but
today want to claim his message as their own in the name of protecting
the institution of marriage, thereby giving new meaning to the
name "Uncle Tom."
However, don't think that these new partnerships come without strings
attached. The Black vote is expected to be hand delivered on legislation
that supports discrimination against gays and lesbians and their right
to protect their families, denying a woman's right to choose and pushing
the President's abstinence only campaign. In addition, our religious
leaders are also expected to remain silent and not be the prophetic
voices they should be on issues of critical importance to Blacks. In
exchange for money, they've essentially sold their congregations to
people who continue to oppose universal access to healthcare, education
and housing, the very issues at the core of the Black struggle.
There's a coordinated religious campaign
to get ministers across the state to speak out against gays and the
debate is not about religion but more about politics, power and keeping
that political power in the hands of people who stood in the schoolhouse
door, fighting for segregation and against the full inclusion of
Blacks in society.
Zora Neal Hurston once said, "Not all
Black skin is kin."
Can I get a witness?
At 27, Jasmyne Cannick is frequent presence
on television and radio and has appeared on numerous media programs,
including Black Entertainment Television News, the Tavis Smiley Show,
Fox News and the Bev Smith Show. She has also been featured or quoted
in articles in the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles
Times, Washington Post, St. Petersburg Times, Africana.com, Eurweb.com
and Bet.com. Cannick is a member of the National Association of Black
Journalists, a board member of the National Black Justice Coalition,
a Black gay civil rights organization and co-producer of the new
cable series Noah's Arc, America's first Black gay series. Cannick
is the Director of Public Relations for the Black AIDS Institute.
She lives in Los Angeles www.jasmynecannick.com. email: [email protected]