Pitch Perfect Sharpton

Here’s where he got it right


Ferguson, Missouri
The funeral of Michael Brown in a Missionary Baptist Church near downtown St. Louis was many things.

It was a funeral for an 18-year-old African-American youth gunned down minutes from his front door on August 9.

A gathering of black clergy: Rev Jesse Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes, et al.

A convening of the Congressional Black Caucus—from Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters to Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill’s blond hair stood out on the second row of a largely black crowd of more than 1,500.

Missouri’s Republican Senator, Roy Blount, did not attend, nor did Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, who made as statement about respecting the family’s privacy, but would have been a distraction because of his ham-handed response to the police killing and the subsequent rioting and protesting.

It was a political rally.

It was a cri de coeur from the city’s African-American community.

And from where I sat in the balcony, it was Rev. Al Sharpton’s finest movement.

Sharpton has his detractors, but today he was pitch perfect.

Sharpton has his detractors, but today he was pitch perfect.

He was called upon to follow a half an hour of powerful, impassioned, ecstatic, sanctified, preaching unlike anything you will ever see in any white church.

Preaching that brings an entire congregation to its feet, moves worshipers to into ecstatic, religious reverie, stirs the soul of the non-believer, and on this occasion concluded with two concelebrating preachers dancing the Holy Ghost on as Sharpton rose from a wing chair and walked to the pulpit.

Here’s where he got it right.

Sharpton recognized the power in the message of the preachers who had preceded him.

Then he did a hard pivot from the preaching that will deliver the believer into salvation to a secular gospel of political action that will deliver enduring change.

And he stayed on that message—exhorting, challenging, hectoring, the African-Community to build a movement on this moment.

He deviated from his message to talk righteous truth to power.

“How do you think we look when young people march non-violently, asking for the land of the free and the home of the brave to hear their cry, and you put snipers on the roof and point their guns at them?” Sharpton said. “How do we look?”

But after any deviation, he returned to tonic.

“It’s time to deal with policing!” Sharpton said. “We are not the haters. We are the healers!”

Moments that should spark movements in this country’s black community come and go without movements happening. And it’s way too early to tell how this plays out.

But today Al Sharpton was about as good as it gets.

—Lou Dubose

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