Can I get a witness – or an endorsement?

JEFFREY L. BONEY
NNPA COLUMNIST

One of the saddest displays I recently witnessed was the debacle surrounding several members of the Black clergy and their political meeting that was touted as an endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

I have been a big proponent of Black people not putting all of their eggs in one basket. I encourage Black people to avoid straight-ticket voting in elections.

It’s my belief and stance that we, as Black people, should develop our own collective agenda and present it to every candidate, regardless of political party.

According to Merriam-Webster, an “agenda” is “a list or outline of things to be considered or done.”

An agenda lists the meeting activities in the order they’ll be presented from beginning to end.

Having an agenda allows participants to familiarize themselves with the purpose of the meeting and the topics being discussed, while determining what outcomes and deliverables every participant may expect from the meeting.

The difference between having a meeting with or without an agenda could spell the difference between success and chaos. Having a meeting with an agenda can lessen arguments, control emotional responses, increase productivity, build unity and respect the time of every participant.

Having a real agenda in place challenges everyone in the meeting to have a greater sense of understanding and control of their emotions, so that everyone is in agreement with the overall goals and objectives being more important than selfish outcomes.

No agenda
I don’t have a problem with any Black person meeting with candidates from any particular political party. However, I have a problem when you have that meeting without having a plan of action or an agenda. That is what we saw when a collection of Black ministers met Trump in New York.

The rhetoric spewed by the Black ministers that spoke before and after the meeting deeply disturbed me. I watched an interview between TV One’s News One Now host Roland Martin and Dr. Steve Parson, pastor of the Richmond Christian Center in Richmond, Va. I cringed as Parson, who leads a congregation of thousands, was unable to effectively communicate one thing during a two-hour meeting with Trump that would benefit the African-American community.

Dr. Parson could not cite any specific public policy issues of substance that were discussed in the meeting with Trump. The same thing was clear with all of the Black ministers who have spoken about the meeting.

No specifics
They have spouted off about Trump promising to bring jobs to the Black community and supporting financial literacy and encouraging entrepreneurship, but nothing of substance was discussed concerning concrete plans to address unemployment, home ownership, small business lending disparity, education, mass incarceration, police brutality and other important issues in the Black community.

In all, it was just another meeting with no real agenda, held with Black people who have the ability to influence – but are not on the frontlines of many of these important issues. It is sad.

I love the way Pastor Jamal Bryant of The Empowerment Temple Church in Baltimore described his fellow Black ministers who met with Trump.

Bryant called them “prostitutes” who were simply seeking “their 15 minutes of fame.” He said “they are prostituting themselves and, in essence, the Black church.”

Called them out
Bryant refused to attend the Trump meeting and went on social media to call out every Black minister whose name was listed on a flyer that promoted the meeting. He accused those who did go to meeting of “selling out” for a moment in the national spotlight.

Bryant also criticized the Black ministers who chastised him for working with Min. Louis Farrakhan and with the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet those same ministers chose to meet with Trump, who has publicly been disrespectful to Blacks, Hispanics, women, the disabled, and many more.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stated that “our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter.” If Black people are to respect the Black church and consider it relevant to their lives, Black ministers must go beyond simply meeting with political candidates.

Black ministers must step up and use their voices, influence and resources to go beyond building fancy edifices. Black ministers need to be voices that are respected again.

Jeffrey L. Boney is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Contact him at jboney1@texasbusinessalliance.org.

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