« on: May 08, 2008, 07:35:51 AM »
My Motive For Wright Breakfast
by Rev. Barbara Reynolds
NNPA Religion Columnist
Originally posted 5/7/2008
As a member of the speakers’ committee of the National Press Club, upon the invitation of the Club President Sylvia Smith, I helped organize the press breakfast that featured Pastor Jeremiah Wright. Since my role - and my motive - have been questioned by some commentators, bloggers, columnists and journalists, I feel I owe my readers an honest answer.
I began suggesting Pastor Jeremiah Wright as a speaker about three years ago when I met him at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference that was convening in Washington, DC. At that conference, Sen. Barack Obama was the morning keynote speaker and I was the afternoon keynote speaker. After seeing that Wright and Obama had such powerful, but distinct social justice messages to lift people up, I wondered why the public had not heard more from this Conference of which Wright was the founder.
As a minister, I served as a commissioner on the Conference's Truth and Justice Hearings on Katrina. Sen. Hillary Clinton testified at the hearings and attacked the Bush administration for its negligence and Sen. Obama also addressed the group in Washington and encouraged its mission. I saw the Conference message as a part of the legacy of the Black Church that was either being drowned out by the conservative evangelicals or the prosperity preachers.
For two years Wright and the Conference took their message to Washington and the National Press Club. Many eloquent and renown theologians - including Pastors Wright, James Forbes, Freddie Haynes, Cynthia Hale and others spoke. Unfortunately only one reporter, Hamil Harris of the Washington Post reported it, but there was little other coverage.
Ironically I remember praying that somehow this group directed by Rev. Dr. Iva Carruthers and composed of some of the most dedicated and progressive preachers and theologians in the country would gain more public exposure.
I soon found there is much truth to the old saying, “Be careful what you pray for because God may not come the way you want Him but when He comes He is right on time.” So when the recent controversy around Wright erupted, Sylvia Smith, the president of the press club, asked if I could get Wright as a speaker, the man I had been suggesting even before she became president. I was delighted because the Samuel Proctor Conference was again coming to Washington for its legislative conference and Wright could now bring the social justice message with its promise of equality and inclusion to an international level.
That was my only motivation.
I have been attacked for my role in all this. What is fueling it is because I stated publicly that I voted for Sen. Clinton in the primary as my way of thanking her for how she stood up for the poor when she had a chance. Few have written that I also publicly criticized the Senator for not firing Geraldine Ferraro when she insinuated that Senator Obama was an “affirmative action” presidential candidate. Few have written that in lectures and sermons I have spoken highly of Senator Obama and how his message of hope offers a great opportunity to bring a divided nation together.
I believe in the First Amendment. I believe that people of different views should have a voice as citizens. I believe that pastors, preachers and prophets should NOT go to the rulers and politicians and ask permission from them to speak truth to power or to speak the Word that God places in their heart. If they did that, most of the churches, synagogues and mosques in America would shut down.
As an editorial board member at USA TODAY for 13 years, I helped develop the Opinion Page. I was a door opener to let people in, not a doorkeeper to shut people out. I fought hard to bring upon those pages the views of the marginalized, left out, overlooked and invisible into the mix with the rich, powerful and the establishment figures.
In addition, I constantly fought for the media to hire more Blacks as columnists, editors and to also hire more religion writers. I dare say if there were writers and journalists armed with the knowledge of how the Black church has provided leadership to this nation-- not by shutting up, but by challenging, rebuking and reconciling-- people of faith would see the mainstream media in a more positive light. Ironically, some of the same Black journalists who are criticizing me now as I continue to fight for inclusion and diversity, are there as a result of myself and others fighting the corporate media to hire them.
Shortly before the press club breakfast, I helped organized a press luncheon for Secretary Jackson of HUD and worked very hard to make it a sold out event, as was the Wright event. I am not a Republican.
Two weeks before the Wright event I helped organized a press luncheon for LaRaza, a Hispanic organization. I am not Hispanic. But nevertheless I read that I am part of some nefarious plot against Obama. Ironically, as I preached and made speeches about the prophetic vision of Obama that will have a longer positive effect on politics in America than these silly arguments, I was accused by some of being an Obama surrogate.
I am neither an Obama surrogate nor a Clinton surrogate. If either one becomes President-- or neither, I will still be challenging the next President to lift up the poor and the powerless as I have challenged presidents for the last four decades.
One thing I learned from Dr. Betty Shabazz, the wife of the late Malcolm X, is to “find the good and praise it.” I think this country would be better served if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama became president instead of John McCain. And I think this country is better served by an ex-Marine like Pastor Jeremiah Wright standing up for his beliefs and like the Jeremiah in the Bible, standing up for his country in pointing out the nation's past sins and pleading for change and reconciliation, which is the message I heard at the National Press Club.
In his powerful speech before the NAACP on the previous evening, he made the case that we are a nation of differences and different does not mean deficient. Why can’t we accept the different message, style of Wright? Meanwhile, Pastor Wright and his family are receiving death threats and his church bomb threats. This is very sad. I do not believe that tearing down and hating on either Barack or Clinton or Wright is honorable. If this level of hate continues, it will only spell disaster for our nation.
At this writing, Sen. Obama appears favored to be the nominee. If he prevails, I will most certainly support him and vote for him in the general election. Then I will have voted-in the primary and in the general election - for two of the most phenomenal politicians this country has produced. And at the same time, I am proud to stand beside Pastor Jeremiah Wright, one of the most brilliant and courageous preachers I have ever known.