Fallout from Rev. Willie Wilson's "Sermon" Attacking Gays
Recall the Rev. Wilson's "sermon" attacking gays?
There's been a fair amount of fallout. The Washington Blade has called for Wilson to get fired from his position as Executitive Director for the Millions More March.
Wilson also threatened to expose the "Judas" in his congregation who supposedly betrayed him by leaking the sermon. Another ridiculous claim, considering an audio recording of the full sermon, titled, "You've Got to Fight to be Free," was available for sale in the church's own store. It has since been pulled from the shelves by the church.
I wonder how much tapes of this sermon will go on E-Bay.
Incredibly, Wilson stood by the remarks in a subsequent sermon last week in which he arrogantly stated, "I don't like being talked about, being lied on."
Again, the tape recording does not lie.
WHAT'S WORSE THAN Wilson's words and the vicious tone in which they were delivered were the congregation's reactions. Churchgoers can be heard cheering and applauding in the background as their leader spews hate and ignorance from the pulpit.
It's a sickening and disheartening screed that should have no place in a church. That the entire congregation didn't walk out in protest shows just how far some in the black church have to go in terms of understanding the lives and struggles of gay men and lesbians.
Imagine the outcry from those same parishioners if a white preacher demonized blacks in the same way and white churchgoers roared their approval. Or the uproar if a Catholic priest delivered a diatribe against Jews. Some minority groups seem to have forgotten what it was like to endure the open hatred and overt attacks of bigots.
Of course, there are many open-minded African Americans active in the gay rights movement and plenty of racism among gays, but black culture at large still prefers its gays in the closet, as evidenced by the disturbing "down-low" phenomenon.
I don't think the "down-low" is restricted to blacks.
What's doubly upsetting about the lack of support from black leaders and institutions is they ought to know better. As the victims of the worst kinds of bigotry and discrimination, black Americans should be marching in lockstep with gays seeking full equality under the law. Instead, gay blacks have to beg for a place at the upcoming commemoration of the Million Man March in D.C.
Any hope that black gays will be welcomed at the march was dealt a near-fatal blow thanks to Wilson's sermon. He serves as executive director of the march.
Despite assurances from Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who organized the 1995 Million Man March, that gays would be welcome at the march and might even be allowed a speaking role, no gays were invited to a May news conference where the October march was announced.
BLACK GAY RIGHTS activists have courageously denounced Wilson and expressed outrage at his indefensible remarks. Wilson should be removed from his post as executive director of the march and should apologize to his congregation for abusing his position in such a cruel way.
The LGBT Community Discussion Group, composed mostly of members of the D.C. Coalition and National Black Justice Coalition, issued a statement describing Wilson as "defensive, unremorseful and unapologetic" at a meeting after the sermon came to light.
The groups then made several demands, including a public apology from Wilson and his immediate resignation as executive director of the Millions More Movement; two gay representative speakers at the march; and a seat on the Millions More Movement Steering Committee for the National Black Justice Coalition.
Those would all be welcome developments, however unlikely they are to occur.
Unfortunately, Wilson's hateful speech will only serve as a setback in the struggle to break down the walls that divide blacks and gays, whether black, white or otherwise.
Working for an AIDS service organization in Baltimore years ago, I remember the resentment felt by gay volunteers who turned the other cheek as misguided black ministers like Wilson spewed anti-gay venom on Sunday, while members of their congregations called on AIDS charities staffed almost entirely by gays for help on Monday.
Black ministers are hugely influential in their communities and those who harbor Wilson's views are doing untold damage to their gay and lesbian congregants, who are pushed deeper into dangerous denial by these attacks.
From Metro Weekly:
Things heated up July 3, when Wilson delivered a sermon at his Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia. Pannell got a recording of that sermon and delivered it first to the Washington Blade on July 13, then to the Washington Post shortly thereafter. The city has been talking about the sermon ever since the Blade story, published July 15.
''That's one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbian,'' Wilson told his congregation, pointing to women who earn more than their husbands. ''You've got to be careful when you say you don't need no man.... If you don't need a man, what's left? Lesbianism is about to take over our community....
''I ain't homophobic because everybody in here got something wrong with him.... But when you get down to this thing, woman falling down on another woman, strapping yourself up with something -- it ain't real.... It ain't natural. Anytime somebody got to slap some grease on your behind to stick something in you, there's something wrong with that. Your butt ain't made for that.... It's destroying us.''
The morning the story broke, Pannell was a guest on the Joe Madison radio show on WOL. ''I was really shocked,'' Pannell said of the sermon. ''It was not the Rev. Wilson I know, love and respect.'' He described the sermon as ''overly graphic, venomous and vitriolic.'' Of assurances that GLBT voices would be part of the MMM event, Pannell added, ''Obviously, every invitation is not a welcome.''
Wilson's sermon turned a cold shoulder into something far more overt and offensive. And if Madison's radio show is any indication, it may do more to isolate Wilson than the gay community.
''It's obviously insulting,'' Madison told his audience, saying that Wilson should apologize. ''This is beyond name-calling. It isn't even logical.... It's absurd.... Willie Wilson does not speak for me.'' Callers to the show, for the most part, seemed to agree with Madison.
. . .
Wilson, greeted with much applause, did not, however, use this opportunity to apologize.
''A blessed moment it is, brothers and sisters, to dwell together in unity.... That's what we're all about,'' Wilson began, seeming to take pages from the Books of Skinner and Orange. He read a list of attending organizations, including the D.C. Coalition. ''This is a diverse effort we're putting together here.... We've got to bring in everybody.''
It was not long before Wilson's address turned. He was saving his most passionate rhetoric to lash out at ''negro spies,'' presumably Pannell.
''If you've got a problem with me, come talk to me!'' Wilson shouted, complaining of calls from the press the day before. ''What happens in this house, stays in this house.... I don't like being talked about, being lied on. But the cause is greater than the pain.... I ain't your enemy. I ain't done nothing to you.... I'm asking all of us, come together. We need to make a covenant with each other.... I'm not going to be the one to betray the covenant.''
Pannell and others insist they have tried to talk to Wilson about his comments, to no avail. At a Sunday meeting of the local, black GLBT community to discuss MMM, Cheatam offered that she alone has planned a meeting with Wilson, after giving him her card at the end of the Saturday meeting, which she said brought her to tears.
''He called me, and I'll be speaking to him sometime this week,'' Cheatam told the group at the Sunday meeting, while some argued that there should be no closed-door meetings with Wilson. ''It's my plan to go alone.... I'm not going to be co-opted. I'm not going to go in there and just roll over.''
Others who were at the Saturday MMM event shared their perceptions with the group. ''I was at Scripture Cathedral yesterday,'' offered longtime HIV/AIDS activist and performance artist Michael Sainte-Andress, at times choking back tears of his own. ''I really just wanted to spit in the face of Rev. Wilson. My heart was being broken over and over and over again.... This man was hateful. He was mean. And he was nasty.''
Sainte-Andress had supported Wilson's successful 2000 bid to join the board of the University of the District of Columbia.
. . .Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), the only council member to vote against Wilson joining the UDC board in 2000, said at the time that a vote for Wilson was a vote for ''intolerance and divisiveness.''
Today, says Schwartz, ''Rev. Wilson's belittlement of various communities continues, and that saddens me. Leaders need to bring people together, and not be divisive. Or they shouldn't be leaders.''
Good for Carol Schwartz. She clearly saw right through this appalling Willie Wilson.