Rev. Al Sharpton Wants GLBT, Black Church Dialogue

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(APN) ATLANTA–The Republican Party “came and invaded the Black Church and tricked people into supporting Bush,” Reverend Al Sharpton told a National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) Summit here.

“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 the so-called threat to marriage]. We need to be honest about that,” Sharpton said.

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.

At the same time, “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 press question from Atlanta Progressive News (APN).

Over 100 people attended today’s conference at the First Iconium Baptist Church, which included speeches, panels, and free lunch. The event continues tomorrow, Saturday, January 21, for a second day. The conference was also attended by numerous media outlets as well as an outreach representative for U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

“I came to be informed, to get the flavor of what’s going on,” Akbar Imhotep, who is starting his own church, told APN.

“We’re very happy. About 100 were here today, and we were expecting 75. But the real work starts Monday,” Sylvia Rhue, the event organizer for the NBJC Summit said. Rhue collaborated with colleagues of Dr. Martin Luther King for 20 years, she said, and she served on Dr. King’s “Los Angeles Welcoming Committee.”

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

“Jesus’s identity has been stolen! They got his credit card; they got his ID number!” Rev. Ken Samuel, Pastor of the Victory for the World Church of Stone Mountain, Georgia, said in the same panel.

“The Black Church is the oldest growing independent institution in this country,” Sharpton said. “They [the 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 (RNC) and the hierarchy of the Republican Party,” Sharpton said.

Rev. Sharpton says the RNC stopped being involved in the marriage issue after the election.

“It was hard for them to sell morality after Katrina,” Sharpton added, of the RNC.

Sharpton said he was inspired to participate in the Summit due to his memories of working with Bayard Rustin (homosexual colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and on behalf of his “gay sister.”

“I had a member of my family who was gay,” he said in his speech. His sister was “Black, gay, and female,” he remarked. “Imagine the social schizophrenia.”

Sharpton told a media conference he and the NBJC were looking at taking the Summit to other US cities, including possibly St. Louis and others.

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