Coretta Scott King was a wonderful soul of love and empathy who will be mourned by millions of people. She was the King who was a queen, because she understood her husband's "dream" was much greater than achieving liberty for one narrow slice of the population.
"For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people," Coretta Scott King said at the 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."
King has left a legacy that lives on today through a nascent movement of prominent African Americans who are coming together to support the gay community. Earlier this month, black civil rights leaders held a national summit in an Atlanta Baptist church to discuss how to overcome anti-gay prejudice often fomented by homophobic pastors.
At the conference, Rev. Al Sharpton wisely pointed out that the overwhelmingly white and historically anti-black religious right was using anti-gay prejudice to divide the African American vote.
"In 2004, the religious right was concerned about re-electing George W. Bush," said Sharpton at First Iconium Baptist Church. "They couldn't come to black churches to talk about the war, about health care, about poverty. So they did what they always do and reached for the bigotry against gay and lesbian people."
Indeed, immediately following the 2004 presidential election, social conservatives made a strong push to lure African-Americans by exploiting the same-sex marriage issue. According to the Los Angles Times, Rev. Lou Sheldon hosted a right wing meeting of 70 black religious leaders in Los Angeles.
Unbelievably, Sheldon played an anti-gay video featuring disgraced Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. Remember, Lott had to step down as Senate Majority Leader after he publicly pined over Strom Thurmond not winning the presidency as a Dixiecrat. Fortunately, African-American columnist Leonard Pitts put Sheldon's power grab in perspective.
"Whether the issue was slavery, segregation, lynching, voting rights or housing discrimination, social conservatives have always taken a position that history later judged to be ignorant and flat-out wrong .... which leaves me at a loss to understand why any African American possessed of a functioning brain would give this atavistic bunch the time of day," wrote Pitts.
The disastrous response from President Bush following Hurricane Katrina put a temporary end to this unholy alliance. Rapper Kanye West summed up the sentiment felt by many people when he said on live television, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Still, many African American church leaders are outspoken against gay and lesbian rights.
- Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, made news by urging conservatives to buy Microsoft stock, and then dump it to punish the company for supporting a successful measure in Washington State that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- African American preacher Talbert W. Swann II published an intolerant book "Closing the Closet: Testimonies from Deliverance from Homosexuality," that features stories from 23 "ex-gays."
- Washington, DC minister Rev. Willie F. Wilson, immorally double-crossed black gay activist Keith Boykin, by banning him from the Millions More Movement rally, right as he was about to take the stage and deliver an inclusive address. Wilson is a creepy minister who has written about an "epidemic" of lesbianism among young black girls.
The good news is that this opposition has led to heterosexual African Americans, such as Sharpton and West, openly speaking out against homophobia. It has helped motivate people, such as basketball star Cheryl Swoops, to come out of the closet.
"I mean, you have Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell, but you don't have your well-known gay African-American who's come out, not to my knowledge," Swoopes said, citing this as a major reason for revealing her sexual orientation.
Outspoken hatemongering has also led to the emergence of the National Black Justice Coalition, a group created to fend off attacks and introduce black gay people to the African American community. The group features powerful and persuasive leaders, such as Donna Payne and Keith Boykin, who are educating people and standing up to the extreme right.
No one group owns the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently articulated. Coretta Scott King was a kindred spirit of her late-husband who left a legacy of unity that will help stop those of all races who thrive on sowing the seeds of division and disunity.
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people," King said in 1998. "But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
Wayne Besen is a nationally recognized advocate for gay and lesbian rights. He has appeared as a guest on leading news and political talk shows including: NBC Nightly News, The Roseanne Show, CNN's Talk Back Live and The Point, Fox's O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, Fox News and MSNBC News.
Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that counters anti-gay propaganda, exposes the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life.
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