I was there in my capacity as photographer for Baltimore OUTLoud (I’m also their political cartoonist too. When you’re a small community newspaper you work what you’ve got…). I’ll post some shots of the rally later. Right now I just want to get a few things immediately off my chest…
Firstly, this wasn’t so much a political rally as a tent revival. NOM finally generated some non-trivial black presence at one of its Marriage Tour events. Too bad it was the last stop on the tour. But I’m sure NOM will be playing it for months to come as though it was a typical representation of their support in the black community. It wasn’t. And apparently most of the black faces in that crowd were bussed in by Bishop Harry Jackson, because the Very First Thing NOM director Brian Brown says as he steps up to the podium was “It looks like Bishop Jackson has brought in the cavalry.” That got a round of applause. Brown was about fifteen minutes late starting things. I wonder if that was for waiting for the cavalry to arrive. And save his butt from yet another hour of preaching to a handful of old white folks.
Brown was followed by three black ministers. First up was Bishop Jackson, who compared court rulings against anti same-sex marriage referendums to southern segregationists denying black people the right to vote. Brown also played this card…in fact the entire NOM event was a spectacularly loathsome effort to play the race card in front of the largely black crowd. I found myself wondering if they’d planned it that way all along or this was a last minute shift in gears. Again and again Brown and Jackson and the third minister whose name I have thankfully forgotten, whipped up the crowd with chants of LET THE PEOPLE VOTE…LET THE PEOPLE VOTE…
Mind you, I’m there to photograph this event for my newspaper, and because it’s a chapter in American history we are all living through and I want to document some of it. There were some counter-protesters there too (I’ll get to them in another post…), and I’m wandering around both groups looking for images that tell this story and I can’t let myself become a part of it or else I’ll stop seeing it and then I won’t be letting events tell their own story. So I’m trying to stay focused and detached and watchful and that’s really really hard when a little voice inside you is screaming Right…and I’ll bet all those people in the south who liked having their segregated schools would have just loved to have voted on the issue of school desegregation too… You can go ahead and lecture people about hypocrisy and some of them may even listen, but generally and as a group preachers aren’t folks you are likely to have any success on that with.
The second minister was Walter Fauntroy, and several things struck me about his speech. First, how hard he tried to thread the difference between his civil rights movement past and his obtuse insistence that same-sex marriage isn’t an issue of justice. In the middle of assuring everyone that he just Loves us all to pieces he actually tossed out the hoary old canard that indifference to same-sex couplings put the human race in danger of not propagating. Thankfully, I have a copy of his prepared text which someone kindly shoved into my hand while I was busy taking photos…
Children of both genders need a father and a month in the home with them teaching them to care for protect one another in mutual respect and cooperation if there is to be the “perpetuation of the species” [his quotes] if they are to know how to reproduce. Two men can’t do that; two women alone can’t do that.
That’s the truth in love I came here to tell you…
Thanks Walter. I love you too. Now please get off my goddamned back. K?
Let it be said Fauntroy only whipped the LET THE PEOPLE VOTE chanting up a couple times, compared with the every other breath of the other two. He actually called out the Bush-Cheney right wing for using the issue of same-sex marriage as a wedge to get themselves elected. And…for stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore. He called the issue of same-sex marriage a “side show that is running away from the circus.” That part of his speech must have absolutely horrified the white NOMers there.
Fauntroy repeated several times that people need five things for a “decent quality of life”: Access to income, access to education, access to healthcare, access to housing, and access to JUSTICE [caps in his prepared text]. And without any apparent sense of irony, he implored Us to stop letting ourselves be used by the right wing, “who want the Barbarism of Wars, the Decadence of Racism and the Scourge of Poverty in order to line their pockets.” [caps in his prepared text]. We have a right, says he, to access to income, access to education, access to healthcare, access to housing, and access to JUSTICE. Just not equal justice.
More later…I’m a tad tired now and need to get back to sorting through my images…
Oh…and one last thing I’m still chewing on a bit… Jackson completely ignored Fauntroy while he was speaking. The crowd held him in rapt attention, as did the one white clergyman I saw there. And when I glanced his way from time to time, even Brown was paying attention (I wondered how well that part about Bush and Cheney using same-sex marriage as wedge and stealing the election from Gore went down his craw…). But Jackson was busy schmoozing with some other apparently Very Important People under the NOM tent, all the while Fauntroy was speaking.
[edited a tad to correct some spelling…]
UPDATE: Box Turtle Bulletin reminds me there was a forth minister who came to the stand after Brian Brown: Bishop Neaville Coles of the local Church of God in Christ, who they say was the one who brought his congregation to the event. I recall Brian Brown saying it was Bishop Jackson who “brought the cavalry” but perhaps it was Coles he was referring to.
And yes…this part of Coles speech was really fragrant:
Bishop Coles thundered, “What God has joined let no man put asunder!” Ummm, Bishop? You may want to think through the logical conclusion of that one before you try to reverse the marriages of the United Church of Christ.
Actually, what Coles was careful to say was “What God has made let no man put asunder!” The difference from that well known line at the end of the marriage vows is telling. Somewhere deep in those secret doubts he hides even from himself, Cole knows perfectly well what he is casting asunder, and whose.