Rev Irene Monroe

The Black Civil Rights Movement Is Dying, Finally

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | January 28, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: bernice king, black, black church, civil rights movement, lesbian, LGBT, Martin Luther King Jr.

Last week, Martin Luther King tributes were taking place across the nation. And the spirit of MLK and the courageous acts of our foremothers and forefathers of the civil rights movement are etched indelibly in many of our hearts.

bernicekingjpg-8a9b4fa2e513e606.jpgBut the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King's era of the 1960's is dying a slow and necessary death.

And for many African Americans of younger generations, who are now the beneficiaries of the racial gains from the Movement, feeling the Movement's slow death is like a welcoming boulder gradually being lifted from their shoulders, especially for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

With many key African American organizations and institutions of the civil rights movement of the 1960's still resistant to address this generation's outwardness about their sexual orientations and gender expressions as a civil rights issues, these organizations and institutions have not only lost their mantle as part of a prophetic justice movement for this day and age, but many of our present day key African American organizations and institutions of the Movement have also lost the moral high ground that was once so easily associated with them.

For example, the bedrock institution in the African American community, we all know by now, is the Black church. And it was also the bedrock of the civil rights movement. In March of 2010, African American Princeton's Eddie Glaude Jr. published an obituary for the black church in the Huffington Post titled, "The Black Church is Dead." Glaude talked about several of the problems facing the African American community, but no where in his piece did he talk about anti-gay ministers and homophobic congregrations.

According to the PEW Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, 87 percent of African Americans identify with a religious group and 79 percent say that religion is very important in their lives. The Pew report also showed that since 2008, African-American Protestants are less likely than other Protestant groups to believe that LGBTQ people should have equal rights. And since hot-button issues like gay adoption and marriage equality have become more prominent, support for LGBTQ rights among African-American Protestants has dipped as low as 40 percent.

A groundbreaking study in July 2010 came out titled "Black Lesbians Matter," examining the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the black lesbian, bisexual, and trans community. One of the key findings of the survey revealed that there is a pattern of higher suicide rates among black LBTs. Scholars have primarily associated these higher suicide rates with one's inability to deal with "coming out" and the Black Church's stance on homosexuality.

But with various pockets within a community homophobic, clerics closeted and a church on the "down-low" about sexuality it cannot save itself from itself. And perhaps as many of us LGBTQ Christians in the Black Church have known, but Glaude finally stated it: "The Black Church is Dead."

With a dead church so too will follow important historic organizations that were birthed out of the civil rights movement and headed by black homophobic ministers.

One example is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"We should've closed it down years ago,'' Andrew Young, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., said after Rev. Bernice King announced this week that she will not be taking her oath as SCLC's president. "I saw this as a lost cause a long time ago.''

But many in the LGBTQ community felt, with Rev. Bernice King at the helm of the organization, queer justice was certain to be a lost cause.

In 2009, Rev. Bernice King was bestowed the honor to be the eighth president and first women to head SCLC, co-founded by her father, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While it isn't clear if Bernice King was a legacy pick for SCLC, it is, however, very clear to many of us in our LGBTQ communities that she would not be carrying out her father's legacy.

And having been rumored for years, on the "chitlin' circuit," to be a lesbian, Rev. Bernice King's track record concerning LGBTQ civil rights has been less than humane and antithetical to the legacies of both her parents.

For example, Rev. Bernice King's most audacious sign of desecrating her father's legacy was the December 2004 march titled, "Stop the Silence," promoting an anti-gay agenda.

Beginning the protest march by lighting a torch at her father's grave site and then passing it on to her spiritual mentor and the march organizer, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, who has recently been embroiled in a sex scandal for molesting pubescent boys from his church, whom he calls "spiritual sons," King stated, "I know in my sanctified soul that he (Dr. King) did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage." Therefore, given the homophobic vitriol Rev. Bernice King has spewed out over the years, the LGBTQ community is always braced to see what next she'll say and do, and especially if given the bully pulpit she would have had as president of SCLC.

Comprised mostly of conservative clergy and parishioners, our churches and historic justice institutions remain in an intentional time warp. With its refusal to speak on present-day issues not only plaguing the African American community but plaguing all Americans, these churches and organizations exist as a visiting museum tethered to the 1960's civil rights era rather than exist as an organization faced toward the challenges of today.

Like the many who gathered last week to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, I, too, am committed to the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I not only miss King's wisdom, I miss the sound of his voice, the things he said with that voice, and the choir that resounded within him with that voice.

King once told a racially-mixed audience that "Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial injustice."

If King were alive today he would want us to look at homophobia.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Interesting article...makes me wonder if a lot of the blacks are concerned about loss of recognition and power since they still think, live and breath their forefathers' slavery. You see a lot of aggression between blacks and this because hispanics have also been looking for equality and blacks are concerned, afraid or fearful of loosing the power they have gained? It seems the struggle for equality that blacks have had they continue to want and struggle for and want no group to overshadow their "plight" instead of providing support for those groups now in their own struggle.

What the hell are you talking about? Really, I have no clue what your point is here?

The Black Church in the South evolved as the "town square" for Black People because it was a safe place for Blacks to congregate (most of the time). The introduction of Christianity to slaves was sanctioned by racists slave owners.

Lyndon Johnson rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, not Martin Luther King.

In a discussion about young Black Males being marginalized, Russel Simmons wisely offered that "it's not just young Black and Hispanic youth who are being marginalized, it is also POOR WHITE YOUTH". How can the Black Civil Rights movement be dead when it has incorporated Poor Whites into the struggle?

When you have young White Males coming out of the military and the only opportunity available to them is Gay Porn, you have a generation of White Men who know what it's like to be Black in America.

The phrase "Teaching and Preaching" was an old "saying" in The Black Community in the south from the great old days that referred to the opportunities available to marginalized Black People in a Racist America.


Why was my comment deleted but Marion Page's comment was not?

This false claim that Lyndon B. Johnson was the hero of the black civil rights movement along with disavowing the bloodshed of African Americans and the leadership of Martin Luther King, is a gay white racist tactic designed to deflect their own inactivity as they have shifted all the responsibility for their rights on to President Obama. And it's because they're cowards and afraid to authentically stand up for their own civil rights like black Americans so courageously did in the '60s.

I'm stunned that Bilerico Project would not only stifle an African American who is offended and correcting this malicious attack on black history aka black people, then you go so far as to leave the offensive item untouched. While shutting down the truth.

I rarely post here. I would've expected such behavior to be that of Americablog or Towleroad. Not Bilerico Project.

You left this awful offensive lie up here but you delete my response to that lie. I guess it's offensive to you for any self respecting African American to dare stand up to the evils present in gay white culture and call it what is.

I'm going to repost the truth one more time in my response to Marion Page's very racist commentary on omitting aspects of the black civil rights struggle with the statement:

"Lyndon Johnson rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, not Martin Luther King."

Please read the following:

Your cowardice has nothing to do with the black struggle. That cowardice belongs to you and only you. And will not reach into my people's history with your shady backhanded and dishonest ways to try to cover up that which you cannot be. And that's forthright and courageous.

Johnson did ram the Civil Right Act through----AFTER BLACK BLOOD WAS SHED. So stop your evilness. Because by manipulating and leaving out key information with respect to the black American fight and journey for civil rights you become everything Malcolm X said you were: that blue eyed devil. Stop ya lying. And ask the lord to forgive you for your cowardice and evil.

Now read the following and quit telling that lie you're telling.

The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways." On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the best possible redress of grievances.

~Excerpt from The Selma-to-Montgomery March, National Historic Trail & All-American Road.

Irene Monroe is talking outta the side of her neck. What in the world does the demise of the SCLC have to do with the indifference, apathy and silence that reigns supreme when it comes to social justice and equality issues in the black gay community?


Not a thing. Okay great. SCLC and other organizations that had considerable input, leadership and power in the days of the black civil rights movement aren't so relevant anymore. And Eddie Long is still backed by a good majority of black America as Black Christians commit to pray for him while never mentioning prayer for Long's four accusers.

And----there's no black LGBT response to ANY OF IT save an Atlanta based activist who held an event some time ago.

That's what Monroe should be writing about. Where is the black gay and same gender loving voices?

I'll tell you where they're at in LA at least. They're pouring all their energies into the annual black at the Beach party for 2011.

I gotten dozens of emails and Facebook notices about it for months on end. I get all kinds of emails and notices for black LGBT activities and social events. But I've never received anything related to or initiating social justice as it relates to the black LGBT community IN the black community. Nothing. Ever.

So this post at best is irritating because it implies that these orgs have been serving as road blocks of sorts for black LGBT in terms of challenging and combating homophobia and other issues in the black community. And that's not true.

There's not been one thing standing in the way of black gay and lesbian Americans standing up for their rights or up against homophobia in the black community.

Please don't put it off on these organizations whether they are no longer relevant or not. They have nothing to do with black LGBT apathy.

I'm looking for the post on how pathetic and useless the National Black Justice Coalition---supposedly THEE black gay social justice org---write about what a scam that is and why that org needs to be dismantled yesterday.


That's what needs to change. We're in the Obama era---change. Remember? That too, should be changing. No more puppet black gay orgs funded by white gay dollars which means the black gay org doesn't have a voice or any real integrity for that matter. Therefore it really does not represent the best interests of the black gay community.

That's what I'm tired of. That's what needs to go. That's what would make me finally exhale.

Yea, to hell with SCLC. Write about the National Black Justice Coalition and what laughable joke that set up is.

We know you won't cause you're part of the problem. You benefit from orgs like National Black Justice Coalition staying exactly the way they are.

This entire post you wrote is absolutely bogus. The supposed death of the black civil rights movement will not change a thing as it all relates to the black LGBT community and their lack of initiative on anything but annual black pride fests and the like. And you know it.

This comment has been deleted for violation of the Terms of Service.

The editorial team in our sole discretion will delete a comment that is abusive, off-topic, LGBT-phobic, or is soliciting and/or advertising.

I am a white gay male saying though some organizations may be losing their relevancy due to their homophobia, the black civil rights movement is not dying. As long as there is even one racist person, law, institution or attitude there's a need for it and a vitality to it. Like everything this movement is evolving, not dying.

I agree with you, it would not be a good thing for the movement for equal rights of black people to die, but it does need to evolve. It is worth noting also, that many of these organizations aren't really much like the groups or people for which they try to take credit. There is a lot of white-washing of the legacy of civil rights figures to make them more palatable and less radical. And there are also people who were of this movement who have taken stands against homophobia, for example, Julian Bond, who helped form SNCC, was also the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and has given public speeches in support of equal rights for LGBT people.

I agree. We need to be holding one another accountable for our various privileges and oppressions.

I'm confused. If King won't take the oath to be leader of the SCLC, how is she still the leader? That part wasn't very clear.

The AP article isn't much better. She was elected president and acted in such capacity, but apparently never took the oath.

Chitown Kev | January 29, 2011 9:47 AM

I disagree with Monroe's general overview but I think what she is saying, in part, here, is that "the black church" should no longer be a leader in the BCWM.

And I would agree with her on that.

The Black Civil Rights Movement should die because it is not also working for LGBT civil rights?

This country is everywhere still at least waist deep in racism, and in a lot of places more like nose deep, and if the Movement -- the old guard -- has lost its relevance to THAT fight, then it is irrelevant, but the fight for racial justice and civil rights MUST go on. Telling us all to be inclusive or shut up is just another "hush, child" in a society that has grown tired of the rhetoric, but has yet to deliver the goods.

Me and my family, my neighbors, my friends live in an area where HIV/AIDS is pandemic, with from 3 to 10% of the population infected, and everybody affected. THAT is a problem. And it's not a gay problem.

Our brothers and sisters, our neighbors are LGBT, but that is not something that divides us, no matter what we hear on Sunday. We still need educational opportunity, economic opportunity. And if the "Black Civil Rights Movement" must go, the Black civil rights movement must continue.

Hysteria The Great | May 9, 2011 11:10 AM

Hello, I am a Canadian citizen. I couldn't help but glance over a few of the comments that were placed on here...I am afraid that I must confess myself ASHAMED of ALL of you. I've never seen such atrocious and facetious words in ALL OF MY LIFE. You call yourselves believers of the cause? You'd should be taken out back and shot in the face like the traitors you are. The whole point of the word "CIVIL" is to use civilized and ideal methods of thinking, not this horse shit that you spit out and call "truth". You want to do something useful and productive to other peoples lives? Never. Ever. Comment. On. Here. Ever. Ever. Again. Okay? Is that in any way hard? No? Good. You're not worthy to be called protesters of injustice. Especially not when all you do is sit around BITCHING AND MOANING on a god damn blogging site. Get a fucking clue and go out there. Try to change the damn world. doesn't cook the rice, kids. You have to go out and do something about it!!