So, we are being told that there is now a holy war in Harlem between the Rev. Al Sharpton and the forces that are opposed to him. The New York Daily News has reported that “The prince of the pulpit may have a revolution on his hands,” and that “four upstart clergymen have invited more than 100 churches to knock Rev. Al Sharpton off his Harlem political throne.”
The Daily News would have us believe that there is a growing annoyance with Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network and the host of a news program on MSNBC. Sharpton has gained national stature as one of the country’s most visible spokesmen on African-American issues. He crisscrosses the country every week, speaking at rallies, churches and radio programs. He was the principal architect of the 50th commemoration of the March on Washington.
All of this has apparently become too much for some members of the clergy, the Daily News tells us. The newspaper presents the perspective of a number of ministers who strongly condemn Sharpton for “neglecting Black New York while pursuing a national fame and acclaim.” One pastor was quoted as saying that, while Sharpton is “jet-setting around the country, people are going to our churches saying they don’t have money to eat. People need somebody to fight for them.” They are planning a rally to underscore this point.
It is a curious position for Sharpton’s fellow men of the cloth (no women were a part of this condemnation, by the way). To be sure, Sharpton has his fair share of critics. Some denounce him for becoming a media personality rather than sticking to community organizing events. Others criticize him of hopping from one crisis of the month to the next, seemingly without a steeped commitment to any.
But, for those critics, there are certainly clear choices about how to channel their discontent. But disparaging a civil rights leader who speaks out for voting rights, denounces stop and frisk and seeks to ensure that a nation will not forget the Trayvon Martin tragedy is not a particularly effective one.
If they believe Sharpton has too elusive a presence in the streets of Harlem and other communities, they are certainly free to do all in their power to work to eliminate the conditions that place so many Black and brown people at the margins of society. If they are offended by his jet-setting, they might work even more feverishly to stay put in their communities and work harder on the issues of urban America.
It is also more than a little disconcerting that they have decided to lodge their dissatisfaction with Sharpton by making their case in the pages of a New York newspaper, one that is all too thrilled to further the crabs-in-a-barrel image of a community. More than anything, by their very public attack on their fellow clergyman, they are also presenting an image of a backbiting, dysfunctional African-American church.
As if The Preachers of L.A. shows weren’t enough.
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