Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Al Sharpton, the
Black Church, and gays

Al Sharpton, the
            Black Church, and gays

The Republican
Party “came and invaded the Black Church and tricked
people into supporting Bush,” the Reverend Al
Sharpton told a National Black Justice Coalition
summit in Atlanta on January 20. “They
couldn’t come to the Black Church and talk
about war, health care, education, so they take the
cheap way out [by focusing on gay marriage]. We need to be
honest about that.”

Sharpton issued
challenges to both the GLBT and Black Church communities.
“The church should have a front seat in the car
leading towards dialogue and tolerance,”
Sharpton said in his keynote address.

Meanwhile,
“The GLBT community became one-issue oriented. They
need to broaden their issues to supporting health care
and education. The way you build coalitions is with
mutual interests. I think it would be wise and morally
sound to share our battles,” Sharpton said in
response to a question from a reporter.

More than 100
people attended the conference at the First Iconium Baptist
Church, January 20–21. The conference was also
attended by numerous media outlets as well as an
outreach representative for U.S. representative John
Lewis, a Georgia Democrat.

“I came to
be informed, to get the flavor of what’s going
on,” Akbar Imhotep, who is starting his own
church, told me. “We’re very happy.
About 100 were here today, and we were expecting 75.”

“But the
real work starts Monday,” said Sylvia Rhue, event
organizer for the NBJC summit, who added that she had
worked on civil rights issues with colleagues of
Martin Luther King Jr. for 20 years.

“How dare
we oppress people when we ourselves have been
oppressed!” the Reverend Loyce
Newton-Edwards, associate minister of Prospect
Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, exclaimed in a
panel discussion.

“Jesus’ identity has been stolen! They got his
credit card; they got his ID number!” said a
fellow panel member, the Reverend Ken Samuel, pastor
of the Victory for the World Church of Stone Mountain, Ga.

“The Black
Church is the oldest growing independent institution in this
country,” Sharpton said. “They [Republicans]
would love for you to concede that territory [of
morality] to them...to the George Bushes and Jerry
Falwells.”

“After
2004, the Black churches were sincere [about opposing gay
marriage for moral reasons]. But they didn’t
realize they were being manipulated by the Republican
National Committee and the hierarchy of the Republican
Party,” Sharpton said. The RNC stopped being involved
in the marriage issue after the election, he added.
“It was hard for them to sell morality after
Katrina.”

Sharpton said he
was inspired to participate in the summit by his
memories of working with Bayard Rustin, King’s gay
right-hand man, and on behalf of his gay sister.
“I had a member of my family who was gay,” he
said in his speech. “Black, gay, and female,”
he added. “Imagine the social
schizophrenia.”

Sharpton told a
media conference he and the NBJC were looking at taking
the summit to other U.S. cities, citing St. Louis among the
possibilities.

Tags: World, World

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