Saturday, February 11, 2006

What's Wrong with this Picture?

February 06, 2006

Harry Belafonte event sceduled for February 7 is postponed

Belafonte, a civil rights pioneer, has been asked to speak at Coretta Scott King's funeral

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Did you hear Harry Belafonte speak at the recent funeral of Coretta Scott King?
Nor did I. But not because he wasn't invited. Harry Belafonte was a very close personal friend of Coretta Scott King. He helped pay for the funeral arrangements of her assassinated husband and was by her side when he flew her and her children to the actual service.

So, being the close personal friend of Mrs. King that he was, and having received an invitation to speak, why didn't Mr. Belafonte speak?

As it turns out when the Prez decided he wanted to attend the funeral and speak the White House had to approve the program and the speakers on it. The invitation to Harry Belafonte, an outspoken critic of Bush, was then rescinded.

My Pastor, Fr. Michael Louis Pfleger has had similar experiences. In 2003 he was asked by Coretta Scott King to speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church on the annual King Day celebration. A very high honor shared with presidents and other dignitaries. The Prez was there. Before my pastor spoke the president's cronies cornered him and tried to bully him about what he should and shouldn't say. He went and asked Mrs. King about it. She told him to say whatever he felt God would want him to say, and he did. Within weeks of the engagement Mrs. King received a phone call telling her my Pastor was not to speak there again. Fr. Mike is also invited to Howard University every year to speak. This year they received a similar call from the White House.

My question is this. Do we get it? Do we really understand the real state of the union that we live in? Do we really understand that we live under a government that spies on us and dictates who can speak where and when? John Lake, an Evangelist and Faith Healer well known around the turn of the 20th century made the statement that governments throughout history have discovered that you can do anything you want to a people until they don't have bread. Its only when the primal hunger urge hits them that they are moved to resistance and revolution.
What is it going to take for us to wake up? If lies about weapons of mass destruction and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina won't do it, what will?

There has been much criticism of those who actually got to speak at the funeral about the propriety of their remarks. But those who are familiar with the civil rights movement know that it is a long standing tradition within the civil rights movement to use funerals as a platform to speak out on the issues at hand. Dr. King did it many times, specifically at the funeral of the four little girls who died in the Birmingham Church bombing in 1963. To some living in our current times the need might not seem as imperative nor the danger as impending. Those who are in touch with the faces of Katrina victims know better. The times are indeed as perilous as ever and the need for a prophetic voice to address the issues at hand is as immediate as ever. Katrina should have taught us this. Weapons of Mass Destruction should have taught us this. A government spying on its citizens should have taught us this. A government that endlessly seeks to control and inhibit the media and restrict free speech should have taught us this.

Despite the uproar over remarks at the funeral, neither Bush nor the Republican party were addressed directly, but rather the issues that Mr. and Mrs. King lived and died fighting for were spoken of. Any direct inference to anyone present was left to be drawn by the hearer. And as they say, "If the shoe fits . . .


hipchickmamma said...

thank you for sharing. i don't actually know why i am suprised, yet i was. you have nailed it. it's freaking amazing.

i'm speechless right now. i am glad you are around and here to speak out. thanks.

voixdange said...

Thank you HCM. I actually got the information from Tavis Smiley who spoke at our church last night. We were all stunned.He said that the White house had basically taken over the funeral. Why Mrs. King's children stood by and let it happen is the million dollar question. Tavis' plea was to get the word out and to not let it die quietly.

Talk about using a funeral to play politics . . . as if behind the scenes manipulation is somehow more moral. At least those who spoke had the integrity to do it openly. I was wondering why Jimmy Carter was so pissed. I've NEVER seen him pissed . . .

Constantine said...

It's very unfortunate that a funeral would be predisposed to being "taken over." It goes back to my original complaint, which is that funerals should be sacred moments and are not meant for political jockeying. Sure, the heartfelt believe and life work of the person being honored would be considered appropriate material for a eulogy but the whole thing on both sides is really rubbing me the wrong way.

Wasn't Belafonte recently involved in espousing the virtues of Hugo Chavez? Talk about a double standard.

Regardless, I still take your word and accept that this is how both MLK and Coretta would have wanted it.

voixdange said...

You know I love ya C. But the lives of Dr. and Mrs. King were all about speaking truth to power. To have a funeral and fail to do that would have dishonered her, especially in light of what was gong on behind the scenes. Joseph Lowery knew this and Jimmy Carter knew this and Bush knew this, that's why he made an attempt to stop it. I guess he didn't think anyone would have the balls to call him on it - yet another miscalculation on his part. To my mind the only thing that went on at the funeral that honored Mrs. King were the voices of those who stood up and refused to allow it to happen in silence.
Our nation is in critical condition, and yet because we are hooked up to an oxygen mask, we think we are breathing freely. People are dieing here and overseas because of our refusal to see the truth of what is going on. It is unfathomable to me that young men and women are dieing for LIES. I can't wrap my mind around that, and honestly I hope I never can. I know you have two little girls, C. I have two young men 17 & 19. I'm not waiting until they get a letter from the draft board calling their numbers.

Zee said...

This is very, very unfortunate and it speaks about the encroachment of government interference on many levels of our lives. Belafonte is an icon in its own rights. I am saddened that he was shunned.

voixdange said...

Thank you Zee.

Marty said...

Thank you so much for letting me know about this. I had no idea. I am going to link to this on my blog. This info must get out. I also would like to add you to my blogroll if that is okay.

voixdange said...

Thanks Marty! Of course you can add me to your blogroll!

Dan Trabue said...

Strike another blow for "democracy," or whatever it is we're supporting these days. You mind if I send people this way from my blog to see this post?

voixdange said...

Dan of course you may. We also had Cornell West come and speak at our church yesterday. He said the same thing about it as Tavis - out of the mouths of two or three witnesses -

Daniel Levesque said...

Are you certain that Harry Belafonte had an invitation that was rescinded by the Secret Service? It seems . . . strange, and quite un-American to force a guy out of the funeral of a close personal friend.

Granted he didn't speak, but was he ever asked to speak in the first place, and did he accept the invitation if it was offered?

I would know the source of this information before passing judgement. It's just so bizzarre.

Daniel Levesque said...

Silly me. Now that I read the comments I see Tavis Smiley was the source. Him being an outspoken Bush critic, and the . . . sometimes decietful tactics of some of the aforementioned critics makes me wonder about his assertion. That and the fact that the King family would allow such a thing if they ever had asked Harry Belafonte to speak seems most unusual. If it were me, and I had to choose between the President speaking at my mom's funeral or a close personal friend of teh family speaking, well, the President would be the one who got uninvited.

This will take more looking into. I like Bush quite a lot as President, but that doesn't mean I won't criticize him for doing wrong.

Now to verify whether he did do this particualr wrong.

voixdange said...

Yes - Harry Belafonte was invited to speak. The headlines of my post were taken from an actual university website that had to cancel his visit there due to his invitation to speak at the funeral. You can check it out at:

My pastor can bear witness to what has happened to him personally. And he and Tavis Smiley did a conference call to Mr. Belafonte the night Tavis spoke at our church. Also Cornell West spoke to Mr. Belafonte about it. Anyone who knows anything about Mr. Belafonte's sacrifice during the civil rights movement, and what he did personally for the Kings knows that this is a horrible travesty.

As far as having the president speak rather than a close personal friend who helped pay for your father's funeral, flew you there and paid your rent for you when you couldn't, . . . status means a whole lot to some people.

madcapmum said...

So, are you saying that this was the decision of the Kings' children?

If that's true, that they simply could have uninvited the president, then what's left to say? It was their choice. I'm having a lot of trouble seeing how this is the president's fault, though I'm no George Bush fan, that's for sure. If the "people" haven't got the balls to tell him to go to hell when they have power to do so, why try to lay it on his doorstep? The same with the university.

Sorry, this is my hobby horse. It's the whole power-structure thing. As long as you're not looking for power and prestige, you're not worried about who shows up for the funeral, or the lecture series, or what-have-you. The President, the Pope, they only have as much of this social leverage as people give them, in a free state.

And that's the crux of the "no respecter of persons" thing in scripture. If we decide not to care about the social leverage of those around us, we have to be willing to lose all of our own too. And if I'm understanding what you're saying, they weren't willing. Must be a lot of speaking engagements attached, huh?

Venting, sorry. I know too many "popular speakers" personally to be impressed easily by their moral high-ground.

Angevoix said...

MCM, I think you must have read my post wrong or something. I wasn't blaming the university for anything, merely using their announcement to help prove that it really happened. As far as the blame, I am more angry with the leaders within the African American community that alowed this to happen than I am at the White House, BUT having said that, I did not only refer to the funeral, but the attempts by the Bush administration to silence my pastor as well. Mrs. King had the guts to tell them no, too bad her kids didn't do the same.

madcapmum said...

It is too bad that her kids didn't do the same, and to my way of thinking, that's the problem, not the fact that the president is swaggering. They could have told him to take a hike and Belafonte would have been there. They didn't. They had too much to lose. Same with the university. They didn't have to do what they were "told", but they chose to rather than lose whatever it was they would have lost.

I guess I look at it like this: If one of my kids tries to squirm out of facing the music on something they did because someone else told them to, that doesn't fly with me. Personal decision. I don't want to hear what the other person told you to do, I want to know what YOU (whoever I'm talking to) did. If you lose friends, well, that's sad but too bad, and better than losing integrity.

I've re-read it, and I'm still seeing that the post is indignant that the President would flex political muscle that way. I still say nobody had to let him do it, and therefore the majority of the outrage should be aimed at the ones who didn't tell him where to get off when he had the chance. They weren't victims, they were accomplices.

Maybe there's something I'm missing, or maybe we just disagree on this one.

voixdange said...

I really don't see how someone elses wrong makes the president right, but it still doesn't explain the White House phone calls about my pastor.

madcapmum said...

I think we can consider people like George Bush to be a-moral, like an animal. You may not be able to entirely control what an animal does, but you can control what response you make.

In that sense, Hitler wasn't nearly so horrifying as the churchgoers that supported him. Another animal, even further from humanity.

I'm presupposing that the university department that got the call regarding your pastor was full of people concerned with social justice. I'd say that George Bush isn't. Therefore, I hold them far more accountable for their response to "the animal" and its roarings than I hold the animal accountable for being what it is.

voixdange said...

I think its kind of an execise in futility to decide who is more to blame. I someone is robbing a jewelry store and I hold the door open for them are they any less of a thief?

voixdange said...

Okay, so I re-read my last comment and couldn't beleive all of the spelling errors. Sorry. I was very tired.

madcapmum said...

No probelm ;-). I groan to think of all the blunders I leave all over the blogosphere when I'm tired.

No, he wouldn't be any less of a thief. But you've contributed to his "thiefdom". And you've become an accomplice. And you've lost your right to complain about the crime rate or the loss of the jewels. And if you'd made a career of exposing jewellery thieves, you've lost your credibility in that area, too.

Here's another picture of the way I see this scenario:

There's a bishop who preaches regularly against abortion.

A woman comes to him (or her, depending on your church, I guess) to discuss an unplanned pregnancy. She's had a call from an abortionist insisting that she wants to "take care of it" for her. Instead of taking her to a pro-life counselling centre, the bishop drives her to the abortion clinic.

Now, who are you going to be angry with? The abortionist, who's just doing what she's always advertised she was there to do? Or the bishop, who's full of ... kibble. It was his decision where to go. Would it make sense then for the people in the diocese to condemn the abortionist in this instance? Or is there a more serious problem with their church leadership that needs attention?

The "bishop" is the King children, or the university department. The abortionist is the president. The woman is the funeral, or lecture series. Could have gone either way, but when push came to shove, it didn't.

Like I said before, I'm no George Bush fan. It doesn't ever surprise me that he would try to pull crap like that, and as far as the wiretaps go (etc. etc.) I'm all in favour of letting it all fall on his head. But these situations are so different, because he actually didn't have any power, but they bowed down nonetheless when it was entirely in their province to give him the bird. And I don't understand that. Isn't the whole message about resisting abusive power whenever you have the chance? This was the chance, and no one even had a gun or a billy club hanging over their heads. They had nothing to lose but a bit of presidential prestige, but they weren't willing. And that, coming from people who claim moral high-ground, is far more serious than just one more instance of bullying from an amoral politician.

This would have been a real opportunity for protest.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to give another example, because I feel really strongly about this.

It's the same as the children of an abusive, alcoholic father giving him all the blame for the dysfunctional family, when it was in their mother's power all the time to take them out of there. But she didn't, because it would have been a financial hardship, or she would have been socially ostracized. Maybe the funeral and your pastor's situation are even closer to this allegory. It's common for the children, even as adults, to lay all the blame at the "abuser's" feet, because it's too horrible to think that someone who could have removed them from the abuse, didn't.

Again, I'm not saying that all situations involving the president's abuse of his power are comparable. But as far as I know, in the U.S., even the president can't crash a funeral without an invitation.

voixdange said...

MCM - I really don't understand how my pastor is to blame for anything, much like the university. I really don't understand how you are reading that either of them is to blame for anything.
At this point I am getting the real sense that winning is more important to you than understanding ... so here you go, you win MCM, but do you understand?

madcapmum said...

As a last gasp, I'll just clarify that if I was going to assign your pastor a place in this drama, he'd be Belafonte. Obviously I'm not communicating well if it's come to a matter of "winning".

voixdange said...

I'm sorry MCM. I have been wondering the same thing - why it seems like I am not communicating well on this one, because i feel like I am agreeing with you for the most part. Yes, I am disgusted by African American leaders who allowed this. I felt like I said that. But I don't feel it absolves Bush and his attempts to manipulate the situation either.
From what I understand, Bush invited himself to the funeral, and the mega church status seeking preachers in charge thought more about clout than doing what is right. The whole thing makes me ill.

madcapmum said...

Pax! ;-)