ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Why the personal stake in the issue? Sharpton’s sister is a lesbian. In the October 2005 issue of The Advocate,
Sharpton stated, “I understood the pain of having to lead a double life in the system [since] we grew up in the church.”
And at the Summit, he made reference to his sister: “Black, gay, and female. Imagine the social schizophrenia.”
The Black Church Won’t Reform
By Irene Monroe
With the “No Hope Baptist Church of God and Christ” and the “Apostolic Church of Hell” standing front and center in our black communities, and with two decades of trauma and death in part due to many churches’ inattention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging our communities, should the Black Church continue to have such a central role in the life of black communities in 2006?
As the progenies of the African diaspora, many of us pause in the month of February to pay homage to our ancestors who survived the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We pay homage to our ancestors by remembering the Yoruba proverb that states, “If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us.”
When it comes to the Black Church, however, this is a present-day horror. Many of us lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children of the African diaspora would say our ancestors left us neither any teachings nor any road maps on how to survive the Black Church, let alone be a part of its virulently homophobic climate.
For centuries, the paradigm of leadership in the African-American community has been the Black Church with its homophobic yet charismatic preacher.
So the question must be asked: Is the utility of the Black Church in its present-day accommodationist phasethat is, selling out its social gospel message of justice in order to whore itself for George W. Bush’s faith-based initiativesthe locus of liberation of African-American LGBTQ people?
Those attending the National Black Justice Coalition’s (NBJC) Black Church Summit on Gay Rights over the weekend of Jan. 20-21 at the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta certainly think so. The Summit’s goal is to build a Black Church Social Justice Community Action Network, which would be a national coalition of affirming black churches and clergy to provide leadership to NBJC’s ongoing campaign to end religious-based discrimination.
The Black Church Social Justice Community Action Network will host community trainings, develop a speakers network, reach out to NBJC’s allies in the media, seminary students and others with its message of inclusiveness of LGBTQ families.
More than 100 African-American LGBTQ clergy, religious activists and our allies came to hear sermons and speeches on how to develop specific strategies to challenge the systemic homophobia in black churches, from its pulpits to its pews. Most notably, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the event’s keynote address.
“Martin Luther King said there are two types of leadership. There are those who are thermometers, who measure the temperature in the room, and those who are thermostats, who change the temperature. I come to tell you to be thermostats. Turn up the heat in the Black Church. Make these people sweat,” said Sharpton, a former Democratic presidential candidate.
And the heat was turned up even more in Sharpton’s homily as he pointed out how the Black Church fell prey to the divisive tactics of both the Christian Right and the Republican National Committee to garner votes by any means necessary.
“The Christian Right were not concerned about same-sex marriage; they were concerned about the same president being elected. They use gays and lesbians as scapegoats. They knew they couldn’t talk to the Black Church about the war, health care, about education. They took the cheap way out; they used gays and lesbians. . . . The Republican National Committee stopped being involved in the marriage issue after the election. It was hard for them to sell morality after [Hurricane] Katrina.”
Sharpton plans to take his message on the road. However, many African-American LGBTQ people are asking why Sharpton is speaking up now when we needed to hear his voice crying out for queer justice in the homophobic wilderness of black ministers two decades ago.
For Sharpton, it is both personal and political.
Why the personal stake in the issue? Sharpton’s sister is a lesbian. In the October 2005 issue of The Advocate, Sharpton stated, “I understood the pain of having to lead a double life in the system [since] we grew up in the church.” And at the Summit, he made reference to his sister: “Black, gay, and female. Imagine the social schizophrenia.”
And why the political stake in the issue? Sharpton says it’s in memory of working with Bayard Rustin, the chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington who was kept largely behind the scenes because he was gay. Rustin gave Sharpton the funds in the early 1970s to start the National Youth Movement.
However, with no church of his own, many African-American LGBTQ people are not buying Sharpton’s rhetoric. Why? Because in a competitive homophobic pool of black religious leaders vying constantly with each other for attention, Sharpton is repackaging himself. With airtime spent so much on black ministers’ homophobic vitriol of one-upmanship, a new voice is welcomed.
By employing a rhetoric of inclusion, Sharpton may be exploiting African-American LGBTQ people knocking at the door of the Black Church while putting himself on a national stage as the new leader for all black people.
Also, not all ministers are buying Sharpton’s rhetoric.
Immediately following the closing of the Summit, the Rev. Wayne Cooper of Atlanta sent the NBJC this message:
I am literally sick and tired of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson trying to force people to accept gay marriage! In fact, most Americans are. I am black and I believe that marriage was ordained by Almighty God to be between one man and one woman. It is clear from the distinct physical anatomies of men and women. It is a sad day for men who supposedly represent God to believe that God would ordain for a man to put his penis in the rectum of another man! The rectum was/is not made for ‘entry’ but for ‘exit’ of toxic human waste. I’d love to publicly debate either man on this subject and I have no doubt that I will eat them alive!
So I ask the question again: In constructing an inclusive paradigm of leadership, is the Black Church paradigm with its homophobic charismatic preacher the answer?
I am immediately reminded of my ancestors’ use of the Bible as a central text of their teachings and I turn to Mark 2:22 to get my answer: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and then wine and skins are both lost. New wine goes into fresh skins.”
Rev. Monroe is an adjunct professor of religion and the director of Multicultural and Spiritual Programming at Pine Manor College in MA. She writes a biweekly column, The Religion Thang, for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender newspaper in New England states, and an online column, Queer Take, for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal.
posted 7 February 2006
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost
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Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 28 December 2011