Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said God delivered him from the sin of homosexuality, is scheduled to perform Saturday evening at a concert at the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C.
The concert, entitled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King,” is the first in a series of events scheduled to take place in the nation’s capital over the next two weeks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
An announcement issued on Wednesday by a public relations firm promoting the concert says McClurkin, a Grammy Award winner, was “just added” to the list of performers at the event. The announcement says the concert was being organized by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a city agency whose members are appointed by the mayor.
Among those receiving the announcement by email was D.C. gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell, who expressed strong objections to McClurkin’s scheduled appearance at the event.
“The statements he has made are just vile,” said Pannell in referring to McClurkin’s public statements about homosexuality. “This is a District government sanctioned event, and I just find it incredible that they can do something like this.”
A spokesperson for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Doxie McCoy, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the office had no immediate comment.
“Since this is the first we are hearing about it, we will look into it,” she told the Blade in an email.
McClurkin’s views on homosexuality made national headlines in October 2007, when he performed at an outdoor gospel concert in South Carolina organized by the presidential campaign of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
Upon learning of McClurkin’s appearance at the event, gay activists criticized Obama for inviting the fundamentalist minister and singer, saying he had emerged at the time as a leading figure in the “ex-gay” movement.
Mental health experts have said scientific studies show someone’s sexual orientation cannot be changed and attempts to do so usually result in harmful psychological effects on the person attempting to make such a change.
“Don’t tell me that I stand up and I say vile words against the gay community because I don’t,” CNN quoted McClurkin as saying at the 2007 concert. “I don’t speak against homosexuality. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality.”
Pannell has said the message delivered by McClurkin and others who claim to love gay people but hate the sins they commit by being gay have had a devastating impact on gay youth, especially black gay youth who often are raised in religious families.
Wayne Besen, founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out, a national LGBT group that monitors the “ex-gay” movement, said McClurkin has been less vocal in recent years about his views on homosexuality. But Besen said McClurkin has not said anything to indicate his views on the subject have changed.
Gay Democratic activist Jerry Clark, who was appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray to a mayoral committee to help organize D.C.-related events for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, said organizers of the concert did not inform the committee that McClurkin was being considered as a performer.
“I knew nothing about this until tonight,” Clark said on Wednesday. “If I had been consulted I would have said no. It’s a total shock to me.”
Clark said he was aware that the concert was taking place and has great admiration for some of the others scheduled to perform at the event.
Organizers have said that in keeping with Martin Luther King’s following of the non-violent civil disobedience tactics used by freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi of India, the concert would include performances by a diverse array of musicians, including some from South Asia.
Prior to the announcement that McClurkin would be performing, literature promoting the concert described the event as a “free multi-cultural concert experience of sacred classical music, traditional Sri-Lankan and Indian sacred songs, traditional hymns, and African American gospel songs.”
An announcement said the concert would be “headlined by internationally recognized Sri-Lankan concert pianist and music director Soundarie David Rodrigo.”