Black LGBT Folk To Protest Rick Warren’s MLK Day Sermon at King’s Church

The layers of the following story are a mess. But let’s jump in:

One year ago this weekend, then-Senator Barack Obama delivered a speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church where he very directly challenged the Black church and by extension the Black Community on its treatment of Black LGBT folks. He said:

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.

The leadership at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, the church that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. was pastor, and which played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement, paid that speech no mind, and President Barack Obama doesn’t seemed to have meant much by it, either. Why? Not only does Obama choose Rev. Rick Warren (Prop 8 supporter, evolution denier and anti-choice zealot) to give the invocation at his inauguration, but Ebenezer Baptist Church has chosen this white evangelical pastor to give the sermon at the MLK Day service!

Coretta Scott King and daughter Yolanda King (both deceased) were both allies to the LGBT community, and would have flat out disapproved of this choice, and so likely would have Martin. It’s hard not to think Sharpton’s speech one week before MLK Day in Atlanta wasn’t also given as an indirect scolding of Ebenezer choosing Rick Warren. But luckily, the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition, being led by two friends/comrades of mine, Paris Hatcher & Craig Washington, are leading a protest of Ebenezer this weekend to express their outrage on this choice. Southern Voice (my favorite of all LGBT newspapers) writes:

“Warren not only compares women having an abortion to Nazis, and pro-choice supporters to holocaust deniers, but he also opposed the right of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer folk to marriage, as well as [admittance] to his church,” said Craig Washington, a founding member of the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition, which is organizing the protest…These views, these words, are acts of oppression. They are incompatible with the dream of the beloved community Martin Luther King envisioned, and the spirit with which Coretta Scott King founded the King Center.”

Warren “preaches a message that is dated, harmful and dangerous about our bodies, our sexualities and our communities,” said Paris Hatcher, a lesbian activist with reproductive rights group Spark!, another protest organizer.“As members of King’s beloved community, we say that all communities are sacred,” Hatcher said. “And at times like these, Atlanta needs to hear a message of love and liberation that affirms everyone, not a narrow opinion that reinforces the dialogue of oppression and shame.”

The protest is scheduled for Monday, January 19th at 9am, at the corner of Jackson & Auburn Streets, across from Ebenezer.

The reality is that we’re going to have to continue to bring it to the rest of the Black community like this from here on in.

What it Looks Like Now: The Obama Presidency

Yesterday I appeared on GRIT.TV with Laura Flanders talking about controversy surrpinding Obama’s choosing Rick Warren as the person giving the Invocation for the Inauguration. I said on the show, that to me, the choice represented 3 things:

  1. Obama has officially bgean his 2012 run, and this choices was to bring Christian conservatives to his side.
  2. To finally neutralize the rumors that he’s a Muslim, and who better to reassure White American than Rick Warren?
  3. That perhaps he actually is more of a Clintonian Democrat than Progressives would like to believe.

My co-panelists disagreed, and I wish I’d have been better prepared for such opposition. I agree that some of his policy platform looks at this point to the left of Bill Clinton, but many of the people he’s appointed to carry out policy are either to the Right of, or very directly from the Clinton Administration. I also added that Obama’s use of the Clintonian political tactic of triangulation  is very much a part of his political strategy as a “uniter.” Wikipedia defines triangulation as:

Triangulation is the name given to the act of a political candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the “left” and “right” sides (or “wings”) of a traditional (e.g. UK or US) democratic “political spectrum”. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.

Obama has clearly used this strategy in his statment about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (“When bombs are raining down on your citizens[ISRAEL, THAT IS], then there is an urge to try and put an end to that.”) But beyond triangulation in speech and Cabinet choices, there is just general political calculation that is going on.

Case in point: After many re-iterations of the “I believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman” talking point, The Windy City Times just published a questionnaire from Obama in 1996 where he clearly states “I favor legalising same-sex marriages.”

Now I am not turning this into a “gotcha” blog post because I am interested in pusing Obama to try to pass same-sex marriage legislation–in the absense of something more expansive to self-define my family–I’ll take the civil union, thank you very much. But it is an example that our soon to be sworn in President is not capable of the same political re-positioning of past Democratic Presidents.  I think it’s time to put the party favors down and change the lenses in the rose-tinted glasses .  If we’re planning to have anything to really celebrate materially 4-8 years from now, we’ve got to take the kid gloves off.

Note: The New Issue of Black Commentator has apublished part 1 of a new 3-part  piece dealing with the significance of this moment, as it relates to the politics of the last 40 years withthe author, Dr. Horace Campbell refers to as the counter-revolutionary period.