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September 2011 Archives

LAWRENCE, TYLER, COLLE, ASHER AND COUNTLESS OTHER LGBT YOUTH WERE MURDERED AND BULLIED TO DEATH
BUT THEY DIDN'T CALL A PRAYER MEETING AND NO ONE
SIGNED A PETITION!

It has only been a few days since I boldly marched into the KJLH radio station in Los Angeles, CA to be interviewed by Pastor Xavier Thompson, senior minister of Southern Missionary Baptist Church. This would prove to be one of the most talked about interviews on the internet since it was the result of an article that I wrote about this very charismatic minister's controversial City Wide Prayer Meeting to reverse SB 48, a bill recently signed into law by Governor Brown.

What prompted me to write the article was my complete dismay over the fact that several members of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition (an LGBTQ advocacy group) who attended the event to present an open letter to the pastor that had been written to all faith leaders in the black community regarding SB 48, were ousted from the meeting. Members of the coalition explained to the newscaster, while at the event, that they were told that if they did not leave voluntarily, they would physically be removed from the premises, if necessary.

As I sat quietly in my living room and listened to members of the coalition express their dismay about what had just happened to them, admittedly I became extremely angry. But what I did not know was that prior to the prayer meeting, the Los Angeles Sentinel had published an article announcing the prayer meeting, complete with a huge photo of Pastor Xavier Thompson splattered across the page with a headline that read: Southern Fights SB48 with City-wide Prayer Meeting, written by the Religion Editor. After learning of this, I thought to myself, "I cannot believe this! This is exactly what I was referring to in my last article entitled: The Tragic Consequences of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic, when I wrote, "Black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay African-Americans, they tacitly approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia. Black publications depend heavily on financial support from religious institutions, and indirectly these papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus because an innumerable amount of anti-gay sermons have been preached from their pages."

Immediately after my article was published denouncing what appeared to me to be the ultimate insult against the LGBTQ community, I was immediately contacted by Rev. Thompson via email to which I promptly replied. After speaking with him several times, we arranged a time to meet. During the meeting, Rev. Thompson stressed to me that he had nothing against the LGBTQ community and that he was totally unaware that the members of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition had been asked to leave since he was inside of the meeting conducting the prayer rally.

He further explained that the guards had been hired because once it was made known through the media that he was planning the event, he immediately began to receive death threats and was advised by the Los Angeles Police Department to hire security officers to prevent any violent attacks of any kind while the event was in progress. He admits that the security officers did not receive the proper orientation prior to the meeting and overreacted as a result of a heightened sensitivity in an effort to ward off any potential danger.

As I sat next to Pastor Thompson in the radio studio, he publicly apologized to the Jordan/Rustin Coalition and has since then reached out to them to coordinate a reconciliation meeting and he claims to also want to form alliances with other LGBTQ groups and organizations in the city. In attendance at the radio broadcast were his lovely wife and other enthusiastic members of his congregation. During the taping, Rev. Thompson expressed to the listening audience that both he and I were passionate and unrelenting about our positions, but were not at odds with one another personally and that we had simply agreed to disagree in spirit of respect and civility - and this is true! I do respect Rev. Thompson's constitutional right to disagree with my stance and I am not even going to call him a "HATER or BIGOT" for doing so! I even applaud him for the fact that he boldly stated to thousands if not millions of listeners that he didn't believe that all same-gender-loving people were hell bound - something most black evangelical ministers would never do!

But there is one question that came to mind as I glanced through the many photos posted on Rev. Thompson's Facebook page from the event. I would like to ask Rev. Thompson and every person that attended that meeting to repeal SB 48, why is it that no one called a citywide prayer meeting with the same passion and zeal when 15-year-old Lawrence King (a gay child) at E.O., Green School in Oxnard, California was killed in class by a fellow student? Newsweek has described the shooting as "the most prominent gay-bias crime since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard", bringing attention to issues of gun violence as well as gender expression and sexual identity of teenagers.

Why is it that it did not weigh heavily on anyone's heart to call a citywide prayer meeting to express their outcry and outrage when a Cal State Long Beach transgender student, Colle Carpenter, was cornered in a campus restroom by an assailant who carved "It" on his chest or when Tyler Clementi's roommate illegally streamed a video of him being intimate with another male student, outing him for the entire world to see, and as a result, killed himself the next day? Where was the legislative passion necessary to guarantee the safety of our children? You know; the same children that the religious right (the opponents of SB 48) claim to be so concerned about protecting when Asher Brown, an eighth grader at Hamilton Middle School in Harris, TX was bullied and taunted by classmates on a daily basis so horribly and consistently until he decided to end his own life, just days after coming out to his parents.

Oh, but I get it. These children are not worthy of protection or any safe space because they are perceived by the local and national religious community as being demon possessed, mentally deranged, or bewitched by the white gay community because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Yes, Pastor Thompson, I looked at the hundreds of hands lifted heavenward in the photos of parishioners and community leaders from all over the county who were in attendance at the SB 48 City Wide Prayer Meeting. As I glanced through the photos, I could see how they were piously petitioning and invoking God's power to omit the contributions of the LGBTQ community from history books. But, I also know that what may appear to the naked eye to be just courageous community activists and spiritual leaders making an urgent heavenly petition, to me, is just another proposed Ugandan Gay Genocide, only cleverly disguised and dressed up in American religious legalism.

And, you can count on all the grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, church mothers, fathers, deacons, trustees, pastors, priests, bishops and evangelists who were in attendance to pray in agreement with you that the bill be overturned, that is at least until one of their grandchildren, or extended family members is brutally murdered at the hands of some desensitized homophobe who felt completely justified doing so because he reasoned that if we devalue the historical contributions of the LGBTQ community and consider them unworthy of even documenting historically -- then certainly, their human lives couldn't be of any value either!

What saddens me all the more is the hurtful and hypocritical attitude of the churches that is still prevalent today as mentioned in this article. When will they realize that God considers all of His children's lives precious and sacred including the aforementioned LGBTQ youth who were murdered, tortured, and even bullied to death? When will the church and its members realize that Christ's admonishment, "Whatever you do to the least of them, you also do unto me!" is a divine indictment against such uneven applied Christianity? Furthermore, when will they realize that the teachings of Christ exhorts us to demonstrate love and compassion to all of God's children, not apathy and indifference! Until they understand the consequences of their misdirected religious actions, then I guess they will continue to hold citywide public prayer meetings to advocate for their intolerance and ignorance, while Heaven awaits for more truly Christ-loving and Christ-centered churches to pray for and advocate for Lawrence, Tyler, Colle, Asher and the thousands of other LGBTQ youth who were murdered and bullied to death!

About Global Author Terry Angel Mason
Terry Angel Mason is an internationally renowned author, columnist, keynote speaker, poet, singer, songwriter, minister, and Civil Rights activist who currently resides is Southern California. He is the author of three popular titles, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, They Say That I am Broken, and The Dream Keeper, set to be released in 2012. A revered leader and global change agent, Terry Angel Mason's mission is to inspire, educate and empower millions around the world, and promote love and acceptance for all people. A highly sought after author and activist, Mason has been featured in The East County Magazine, Five (5) Magazine, Whosoever Magazine, SGL Weekly Magazine, Outword Magazine, The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Informer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, The Bay Area Reporter, Connextions Magazine, and in many other publications.

Follow Angel Mason on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALOVEBALLAD

(As supporters of gay rights were kicked out of Southern Missionary Baptist Church last week, Terry Angel Mason was reminded of the church's better days fighting for equality.)


The scene that unfolded last week as proponents for gay rights were expelled from Southern Missionary Baptist Church in California seemed out of sync with its history. It's not how I remember the community.

The year: 1963. The place: the very same popular and well attended black church nestled on the west side of Los Angeles. The political climate: blacks engaged in a revolutionary struggle against Jim Crow laws, hoping to eventually eradicate them and acquire civil rights -- a struggle that would ultimately change the political climate of America forever. Standing in the wings is a young visionary by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., destined to emerge as leader of this new cutting-edge movement and perhaps the most revered and inspiring black civil rights leader humanity has ever known.

At the piano is the incomparable Bertha Keys, daughter of the renowned Dr. Rev. Kelly Keys (pastor of the church) and over in the opposite corner, an extremely gifted organist (affectionately known as Jimmy). Center stage is a choir stand filled with young talented voices from all over the city. Suddenly the music begins to play and in typical worship fashion, feet begin to tap, hands begin to clap and the music fills the huge sanctuary as a young man only 9 years of age walks down the aisle singing from the depths of his soul, "Rock-a-my soul in the bosom of Abraham, oh rock-a-my-soul!"

Suddenly one of the church mothers rises to her feet, followed by hundreds of other parishioners and shouts to the 9-year-old boy, "Sang baaaaaaby sang!" Hats begin to fly, wigs get turned around, and purses get tossed in the aisle as ushers rush to parishioners' sides in an effort to calm down those who appear to be overwhelmed with emotion from the Holy Ghost, as they dance in the aisles vocalizing shouts of praise.

The little child singing is me, Terry Angel Mason, only one of hundreds of other same-gender-loving children who grew up in this church and spent what seemed like thousands of hours in worship services, choir rehearsals, prayer meetings and participating in countless other church events.

Now the year is 2011 and reflections of Jim Crow are as apparent as it was in the '60s, as evidenced by the emergence of radical right-wing groups like the Tea Party, STOP SB 48 and religious extremists known as The Family. Now, same-gender loving people have moved to the forefront of the modern day Civil Rights Movement as we struggle to achieve equality, not just for ourselves but for all disenfranchised and marginalized people who are victims of homophobia and discrimination.

The new Southern Missionary Baptist Church that was recently caught on video cameras as gay people were ejected from the premises has been transformed from a traditional red brick building to a new contemporary stucco building with beautiful stained glass and lush red pews that replaced the old wooden ones damaged by an earthquake. The pastor now is Xavier L. Thompson, who invited clergy on Wednesday from all over Los Angeles County to Southern Missionary Baptist Church in an effort to overturn SB 48. The law, which was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and which is dubbed the FAIR Education Act, ensures the correct teaching of the history of the LGBT community, along with that of the disabled and other minorities.

As a civil rights activist I am not surprised that black religious leaders would attempt to reverse this legislation because of the false and inaccurate distortions that have been purposely spread in the black community about the bill.

The opponents of SB 48 have once again skillfully and masterfully played upon the deeply entrenched homophobic prejudices of the black church. They have once more distracted black religious leaders by distorting the issues that SB 48 addresses.

"We believe you cannot sexualize history," Pastor Thompson explained to a news crew.

But the new law has nothing to do with sex. It merely enforces the fair writing of history, meaning all those who have meaningful and positively contributed to history should have their contributions accurately chronicled regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. It is a bill that promotes inclusiveness and proscribes and prohibits the bigoted omissions that have denied Americans the complete truth about how all types of Americans have contributed to this great land of ours.

But because the black church has been so historically and irrationally homophobic, all the opponents of SB 48 had to do was wave the rainbow flag in their faces, invoke the word "homosexual" and then sit back and cunningly watch as Black religious leaders do their dirty work by mobilizing to repeal a bill that actually honors and protects the contributions of all minorities, regardless of race and sexuality. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Moreover, in their fanatic zealousness to begin this misguided process of repeal, the leaders of Southern Missionary Baptist Church committed one of the most un Christ-like actions of all -- they expelled from the church all other interfaith religious leaders and proponents of SB 48 who peacefully attended in order to dialogue with them. They even implied physical threat if gay rights supporters refused to leave.

What kind of message does this send to our LGBT youth? What message does it send to the 9-year-old boy who verges on a fight for his own emotional, spiritual and physical survival as he sits in those same pews Sunday after Sunday, hearing himself marginalized and damned to hell?

What kind of message are those of us who are Christians sending to that little boy, and to the world, if we do not step up and speak truth to power and firmly declare that our God is a god of love, mercy -- and equality.

Terry Angel Mason is a gay HIV/AIDS activist and author. His book Love Won't Let Me Be Silent speaks about homosexuality and homophobia in the black community. Look for his upcoming book, They Say That I Am Broken, this fall.



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