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No Social Justice, no Spiritual Peace
By: Gordon Jackson
Special to the NNPA from the Dallas Examiner
Originally posted 7/12/2006

DALLAS (NNPA) – Gadflies: large flies, like the horsefly, that bites livestock – they carry a reputation of tremendously annoying people and rousing them from complacency.

If Rev. Al Sharpton - described by some as a political gadfly - has it his way, there will be a nationwide swarm of gadflies bugging the African American community to an unprecedented level of positive action.

Perhaps last week’s National Conference and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church, held for two days at Friendship-West Baptist Church, could have been considered a “National Gadfly Convention.” At least one result from the conference is that local chapters of both the National Action Network and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are being formed.

Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, led a corps of nationally and locally prominent speakers to inject a revived sense of social activism into the Black community through the Black church, in which a significant part has lost its main focus, according to Sharpton.

“We have many preachers but very few ministers,” Sharpton said directly during the conference’s opening address.

“They make people feel good but don’t have people doing better. People that are in shackles don’t need people to anoint their shackles. Many of us treat church like a Sunday jackpot, hoping you get some material blessing from
God, like some wheel in Las Vegas.”

Not giving specific names, Sharpton and several of the other 100 ministers representing 20 states at the event criticized in general today’s Black mega-churches for emphasizing prosperity for their congregations, but leaving out practical agendas like helping its fellow man and uplifting the African-American community as a whole.

“We must offer an alternative to faith that’s not prosperity grounded but grounded in the cross of Jesus Christ,” said Richardson, who will help form a communications network of up to 10,000 churches nationwide in pushing social action agendas.

“Mega-church pastors preach with sound bites and cute phrases and try to act like a struggle for right and wrong is something of the past,” Sharpton said.

“They say it’s a new day, but a new day of what? This battle has been going on since there has been a world and it will go on until God himself reigns supreme.”

The battle Sharpton speaks about are aggressive fights for civil rights, once demonstrated through marches and rallies during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The Voting Rights Act being delayed by Congress two weeks ago and two affirmative action cases being brought up for review by the Supreme Court are two examples of how social mobilization is still needed, said Richardson, National Action Network’s Chairman.

“We’re not wrapping the flag around the cross; the cross is going to tell the flag what it’s supposed to wave. We’re giving birth to a social justice movement and revival,” said Friendship-West Senior Pastor Rev. Frederick Haynes.

“We want to make sure that the legacy of civil rights, being advocates for justice for those engaging in the struggle does not leave us because of the current impacts of prosperity that seems to be redirecting the winds of the church.”

“We are here today putting our faith in practical hands so that it can be used to liberate those who are bound and set free those who are captured,” said Richardson.

“The African American church must hold a legacy that must be acknowledged; a level of advocacy, a level of liberation.”

Sharpton fired at the Christian conservative whom he said uses sexual issues such as gay rights and abortion as smokescreens to downplay other important issues such as poverty, bigotry, the war in Iraq and poor education in public schools.

“Morality is not limited to the bedroom. The Moral Majority has only a bedroom view of morality,” Sharpton said.

“Jesus did not come and just break into your bedroom. He talked about how to feed the hungry, treat those who had been left destitute, how to deal with those with no healthcare for healing. He did not come to pick on those and their personal weaknesses. He also came to challenge those in power.

“It is time for the Christian right to be the right Christian.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, spoke to about 100 local community leaders at South Dallas Café the morning of the conference’s second day, announcing plans to open up a Dallas chapter of his organization, that plans to unite many of the Black organizations under one umbrella. He urged the audience to not let mainstream media or political policies devalue the quality of African-Americans in general.

“There’s a cultural block-out by mainstream media,” Jackson said. We’re appraised as less hard working, less universal, less intelligent, more violent, less patriotic. We live out of the views of the eye of the appraiser.”

In reference to the rap song It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp, that won an Oscar this year, Jackson countered, “That’s a judgment. It’s not hard to be a pimp. It’s not hard to demean some weak-minded person.”

He continued, “It’s hard to finish college. It’s hard to get your MBA, your law degree, get a contract to construct, to be the chief of fire, to be the mayor or governor.”

Jackson reminded listeners that Black America is undefeated in overcoming major issues that have plagued them, issues much worse than the ones being faced today.

“We’ve never lost a battle we’ve fought, we’ve never won a battle we didn’t fight,” Jackson said.

“Whenever the playing field is even and the rules are public, and the goals are clear, and we show up, we can win.”

Among the audience approving Jackson’s agenda was Judge Faith Johnson.

“The idea of Black people coming together throughout this country is a great idea. I’m in support of us coming together,” Johnson said.

“We can have unity, but if we don’t have a vision, we don’t know where we’re going. It’s like the blind leading the blind.”

Beverly Mitchell-Brooks, president of the Dallas Urban League, stated that unity, with a comprehensive common vision, need to be executed soon for African- Americans.

“All you can do is try and hope that the ugly head, the competition, the ego, the crabs-in-the-barrel mentality doesn’t show,” Brooks said.

“We have enough people that have the vision to put all of that in the corner and concentrate the vision, regardless of who’s leading.

As the keynote speaker the first night, Richardson used the Biblical account of King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to warn today’s African-Americans of allowing the mainstream society to strip one of their culture and heritage.

“He (Nebuchadnezzar) tried to rob them of their history,” Richardson said. “He tried to take away their personality. We’ve forgotten who we are. I’m afraid that we have allowed the apostolic values and the militaristic ambitions of this government to make us forget who we are.”

On the final night, Sharpton held back no punches.

“Many of you have excuses. Talking about ‘Well, we have to do things differently,” Sharpton said. “Yet, when we examine what you do, you’re not doing anything. People who tell me that they don’t march anymore, they never marched. ‘I don’t protest anymore;’ you never protested. ‘I don’t stand up anymore;’ you never stood up.

“If you’re scared, say you’re scared. But then shut up, sit down and let somebody who is not scared stand up.”

Sharpton, like Jackson, injected victorious historical accounts to the 2,000 in attendance.

“Our people beat George Wallace (Alabama), Orval Faubus (Arkansas), Lester Maddox (Georgia), governors during the civil rights movement who used federal troops to resist integration. You sit up here scared of Tom DeLay and George Bush.

“Martin Luther King changed this nation; he never had a fax machine. Marcus Garvey organized Black folk; he never even had e-mail.”

Sharpton finished in a very outspoken fashion, lambasting the type of ministry he feels is misrepresenting the Black church.

“The mainstream media does not speak
for us. They get them one or two hired Negroes and act like they speak for the Black community,” Sharpton said.

“When I retire, I’m going to open a Rent-a-Tom store. You know there were days when you could buy a Negro. Now they just rent them. I’m going to give White folks a special rate. Monthly rates, rent a Tom for the summer, for the political season, for the Baptist convention, special rates for hurricane Toms; short term and long term leases, ‘Can be rented for anytime and can be depended on to do nothing.’ I’ll be rich in six months.”

Sharpton continued: “If you have this unspoken agreement to tell us to prosper and to look for some lottery hit in heaven, and not address the pain of our people, then you’re awarded with all kind of celebrity status and dinner at the White House.

“We come out of a tradition from Moses to Martin. We’re notinterested in eating with Pharaoh, we’re interested in freeing the children of Israel.”

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