" I freed a thousand
slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew
they were slaves..." – Harriet Tubman
Recently, a group of Black
pastors under the name of the Hi Impact Coalition, held a press
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.