By Jamye Wooten
Social media networks have been ablaze this week following a recent announcement by President Obama. Black clergy who have been in a prophetic slumber since the election of the President have begun to speak out.
On what you ask? Could it be the Presidents signing of the $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act, the assassination of a sovereign African leader, the Presidents’ Race to the top and the privatization of public education, drone attacks ,or maybe his signing an extension of the Bush’s Patriot Act.
No, no something far worst than murder and the neglect of the most vulnerable. In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts the president announced his support for same sex marriage. “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts.
And the tweeting began. The comments from black clergy ran the gamut, from praise to condemnation.
In an interview with Tom Joyner, Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore,suggested that the President had some explaining to do.
“The reality is, President Obama better be in some black churches real soon clapping his hands, singing Amazing Grace and waving that right hand because the black vote is going to be very critical and apathy may win this election if we don’t get on the ground,” Bryant said.
Bryant later penned an op-ed entitled, “Pastor Jamal Bryant “Jilted” By Obama, But Still Believes In President”. The article praises Obama for his accomplishments, expresses Bryant’s disappointment, but ultimately concludes that he will continue to support the President.
Bryant also seemed to be offended that the President didn’t forewarn black clergy of his forthcoming announcement. Bryant stated that the announcement was sudden and “without any warning to the Black church community.”
But does the President really owe the Black Church a warning?
Had Bryant naively mistaken invitations to White House for Faith-based Roundtables and Easter Prayer Breakfast as genuine access to the President?
Note to Black Clergy: If you are invited to the White House and only leave with a full stomach and a photograph, access has not been granted. Your roll is simple, pray for the President and mobilize your congregations to the voting booth.
The Evolution of Jamal Bryant
Jamal Bryant has been all over the airwaves lately. From Occupy the Dream to Trayvon Martin it seems that the A.M.E preacher has taken a new approach to ministry. I must admit I was very surprised when he held a press conference announcing the Occupy the Dream Movement in December of last year. I reached out to Bryant to request a Q&A for KineticsLive.com. I was interested in what seem to be a shift in his ministry focus toward social justice. I was somewhat skeptical but also thought that he had the potential and platform do great work in the area of social justice ministry. My skepticism stemmed from his silence on many of the social issues plaguing Black Baltimore. I also wasn’t convinced that he could launch a movement with the spirit of Dr. King and still be loyal to Obama. Bryant agreed to the Q&A and I submitted my questions which are below.
Occupy the Dream – KineticsLive.com
Q&A with Pastor Jamal H. Bryant
- On December 14th at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. you announced the formation of Occupy the Dream, a coalition linking African-American churches and the Hip Hop community to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. As the national spokesperson for this movement can you tell us how this initiative came about and what are some of your short and long term goals?
- Occupy Wall Street has drawn criticism for not being racially diverse. Groups like Occupy the Hood have emerged to provide a voice for people of color. Some of their concerns are mass incarceration, health care disparities, gentrification, and ending the school to prison pipeline. 1) Has Occupy the Dream been in contact with Occupy the Hood movement? 2) Do you foresee adding some of their agenda items to the Occupy the Dream platform?
- Your ministry has been very involved in Baltimore and abroad in what some would term as “Social Service Ministry” (IE. Charity; feeding and clothing the poor) but less involved in “Social Justice Ministry” which addresses the root causes of social inequality. Do you see Occupy the Dream as a shift in your local and international ministry focus?
- In “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” Dr. King stated, “The Negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation” With that in mind, I want to ask you about the role and responsibility of the other 1%, Black Mega-Church pastors and denominational leaders, in the economic development of Black America?
- Dr. Cornel West has been standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street Movement and has also been an outspoken critic of the president. He has referred to the president, who has received more financial contributions from Wall Street than any of the Republican presidential candidates, as the “black mascot of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats!” What do you think about Dr. West’s comments?
- In 2011 The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s hosted its 41st Annual Legislative Conference. One of their faith-based roundtables sessions was entitled “Black Activism in the Time of President Obama.” 1) Has the election of President Obama neutralized the black activist community? 2) What is the role of the black church in holding elected officials accountable in the Age of Obama?
- In “A Testament of Hope” Dr. King wrote “The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. They are the triple evils that are interrelated”. As you lead this movement to bring about economic justice Dr. King’s words remind us that economic justice is interrelated with war and racism. Under the leadership of President Obama we has seen the continuation of Bush’s wars, the support for AFRICOM and the militarization of aid on the continent of Africa, drone attacks, the assassination of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and most recently signing the $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act. If Dr. King is right and the problem of economic justice is interrelated with the problem of war and racism. Are you prepared to confront the President on issues of war and racism?
- For those who would like to find out more about Occupy the Dream how can they get in contact with you.
- Thank you for your time and may God be with you.
After a couple of weeks with no response I finally received a email from Bryant and a call from his staff requesting to postpone the interview until the first of March when he could be more specific on the direction of the Occupy the Dream Movement. I agreed and in early March I received a call requesting that I interview Bryant on his new initiative, the Empowerment Movement, a faith-based voter registration campaign with the goal of registering 1 million voters on Easter Sunday. To meet this goal, Bryant was calling on 500,000 churches to register 20 voters. I agreed to do the interview, but I posted my initial response on Bryant’s Facebook wall which read – Give me 500,000 churches that can contribute $100 for ten months and we will have $500,000,000. 25% for Lobby/PAC, 25% Economic Development, 25% for Research, 12.5 for Grants and 12.5% Leadership Development. #changeyoucanbelievein.
Bryant shifting from an economic justice platform to a voter registration platform made me even more uncertain of his ability to lead on tough justice issues. A national voting campaign will do little to nothing for the black community. You can not leverage the vote of the black community in a Presidential election. That’s why I wrote Black Politics Beyond the Ballot Box. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans will vote for the President or any democratic candidate they put in front of us and the President understands this. His announcement supporting gay marriage was political. Be clear, every decision a President makes is political, down to the choosing and naming his dog. Obama counted and weighed the cost, knew there would be some backlash in the African-American community, but also knows we have no other choice and no record of holding him accountable.
Dr. Bryant is gifted preacher with the platform and intelligence to make a difference in the area of social justice. To his credit he hosted a forum on homosexuality last summer, a hot topic that most black churches refuse to touch. And recently he gave his support and commitment to me and Dr. Ron Daniels as we work to organize criminal justice advocates in Baltimore.
With so many pressing social issues in black communities, why is gay marriage the only issue that moves the masses of black churches? Why such selective outrage? I grew up COGIC so I decided to take a look at the COGIC Official Manual. The manual which was written in 1973 lays out the COGIC stance on various issues including the death penalty, human rights, drugs and war – but today’s churches remain silent. The African-American community is in a state of emergency and the only challenge to the President is on same-sex marriage! War, Mass Incarceration, school to prison pipeline, failing & crumbling schools, unemployment and underemployment, police brutality and profiling – SILENCE.
The World is a Reflection of the Church
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
“For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household…” 1 Peter 4:17
To all my clergy friends don’t spend this Sunday telling your church the world has gone to hell and Jesus is coming soon. Speak about God’s love and challenge the church to be the church. See when the church or God’s children are in order, then the world is in order. If you live in a city that is in need of healing, start with your church. When we are in right relationship with the Creator, God heals the land for our sake. The scripture does not say when you eradicate sin that healing begins, but when church folk humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways, then the healing begins. Remember, judgment begins in the house of God.
My prayer is that this will be received in the spirit in which it was written…in truth and love. Wake up Black church the world is counting on you!
The letter to the church in Laodicea
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelations 3:14-21