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Rev. Al ‘Sharp-tongue’ in Rejects ‘Vulture’ Behavior
By: Gordon Jackson
Special to the NNPA from the Dallas Examiner
Originally posted 2/22/2006

DALLAS (NNPA) -- There was a new preacher in town at Friendship-West Baptist Church as minister, civil rights activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton shot from both hips, conducting fiery sermons at both services Sunday.

The well-known boisterous and flamboyant figure did not disappoint, lighting up Friendship-West’s flock, with blessings from Senior Pastor Frederick Haynes.

It wasn’t a feel-good address by any means. Sharpton, in a style that’s labeled inflammatory and controversial by mainstream America, chastised the mostly African-American congregation for not supporting their community leaders while at the same time choosing to not be involved in community affairs.

“Black folks have a vulture psychology,” Sharpton said during the late service. “We love dead leaders and hate living leaders.”

Sharpton stated that African-Americans tend to watch many of their leaders get caught up in negative fabrications and rumors when they’re living.

“But as soon as they die, we started naming streets and buildings after them,” said Sharpton. “If they only got that encouragement while they were still with us.”

Sharpton was not making a claim that all leaders are perfect, proclaiming that many ministers today “emerge from their dressing rooms, give them a performance and jump back into their dressing rooms.”

“God never called anybody for one day a week,” he said to the audience. “Nor did God call you to be saved three hours a week. If we’re talking about transforming the community, we must be involved. If everybody that was in church in Dallas and Fort Worth this morning was doing the work we’re supposed to do, it would be a better place.”

It was an Al Sharpton that many love to hate. CNN political analyst William Schneider described him as “divisive, contentious, confrontational, all the things the Democrats don’t really need,” when Sharpton ran for president for the 2004 election.

He has remained in the limelight for most of his 51 years. He became an ordained minister at age 10, founded the National Youth Movement out of high school and work with several celebrities, including James Brown, Mahalia Jackson and Jesse Jackson, Sr.

Sharpton did not hold back from his stinging remarks during the press conference following his last sermon.

He defended statements made by Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founder Joseph Lowery and former president Jimmy Carter during Coretta Scott King’s funeral.

At the funeral attended by President George W. Bush and three former presidents – Lowery said, “While there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, the alleged reason the United States took military action, … Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here,” having directed his remarks toward President George Bush.

Carter made similar comments, taking strong stabs at Bush’s domestic spying policy and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

“At a funeral of a freedom fighter, it would have been hypocritical not to have addressed some of the civil rights issues,” Sharpton said. “Who would have made one think that, at her funeral, she would not have wanted those issues discussed? Coretta Scott King was a great freedom fighter. She had the poise, dignity and self-esteem that were queenly and regal. It’s a height of arrogance to have visitors to try and write the program.”

Sharpton scolded the audience outside but did not put all of the blame on them for Black America’s ills while speaking with reporters. Asked whether racism or self-destructive actions were the main cause, he stated that it was a combination of the two.

“Let’s not confuse civil behavior with civil rights,” said Sharpton. “The problems in our communities are exacerbated by bad behavior, not caused by it. The problems in our community have been systemic and because of structural problems within the system.”

Stating that the income level among Blacks and Whites is 26 percentage points apart, Sharpton said: “It’s not bad behavior but still institutional actions against us.”

The solution, said Sharpton, is attacking both sides of the issue at the same time. Praising Haynes for his active and multi-faceted ministry, he challenged the congregation to allow themselves to be used for spiritual and community purposes, using scriptural applications.

“Why would God save you to do nothing? If God can use Moses to challenge Pharaoh, the three Hebrew boys to challenge Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel to challenge to Balthazar, then why can’t God call us to challenge George Bush?” Sharpton said, drawing a roaring ovation. “If you’re scared or afraid that someone will come after you, say that. But don’t act like God punked out because you punked out.”

He continued: “God always has people that speaks truth to power. That’s not politics but the works of the church.”

When a reporter noted that conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly charged him with pimping the Black community,” Sharpton answered: “Why does he have me on his show every two weeks. So, is he pimping?”

Sharpton did manage to quell some critics when he ran in the 2004 presidential election before conceding in March. He drew more votes than early front-runner Howard Dean in five states.

“He’s (now) chairman of the (Democratic) Party,” Sharpton joked. “I’m running around having to wrestle with people like Bill O’Reilly.”

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