At the request of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, controversial gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said God delivered him from the sin of homosexuality, has withdrawn as a performer at a city-sponsored concert scheduled to take place Saturday night, Aug. 10, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
McClurkin’s withdrawal from the event, which is being organized by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, came one day after local gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell called the gospel singer’s public statements on homosexuality “vile.”
Pannell and other LGBT activists said McClurkin’s participation in the event would be at odds with King’s call for ending discrimination and injustice against all people.
“The Mayor directed the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to ask Donnie McClurkin to withdraw,” Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy told the Blade in an email. “No disrespect to Mr. McClurkin, but Mayor Gray thought it best that he withdraw from the concert in the name of not having his appearance to be a distraction at an event about peace, love and justice for all,” McCoy said.
In a separate statement, Commission Executive Director Lionell Thomas said, “So that Donnie’s participation did not become a distraction from the goals of the program, a mutual decision was reached between the DCCAH and his management team that it was best for him to withdraw from the event.”
In statements in press interviews and at his concerts throughout the country, McClurkin, a Grammy Award winning musician, emerged as one of the lead figures in the so-called “ex-gay” movement beginning in 2007. On at least one appearance he compared being gay to a drug addiction and said it was God’s plan that gays should change their sexual orientation.
When challenged by gay activists and others who dispute claims that someone can change their sexual orientation, McClurkin fired back at his critics.
“Don’t tell me that I stand up and say vile words against the gay community because I don’t,” CNN quoted him as saying at an October 2007 concert for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “I don’t speak against homosexuality. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality”
The concert at the King Memorial at 8 p.m. Saturday is entitled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King.” It is the first in a series of events scheduled to take place in D.C. 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 said McClurkin was “just added” to the list of performers at the event.
Sarah Massey, a spokesperson for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, whose members are appointed by the mayor, said she believes the commission staff rather than the 13-member Commission made the initial decision to invite McClurkin to perform at the concert.
Among those serving on the Commission are gay activists Darrin Glymph, a D.C. attorney; and Jose Alberto Ucles, an official with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A statement released by the Commission says, “Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the Aug. 10 concert consists of a “candlelight musical program [that] will feature sacred classical music, time-honored Sri-Lankan and Indian Sacred Songs, traditional hymns and African-American gospel songs.”
Organizers said some of the performances would reflect Martin Luther King’s following of the non-violent civil disobedience tactics of freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi of India.