The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities paid anti-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin $5,000 for his cancelled appearance at a city-sponsored concert held on Aug. 10 at the Martin Luther King Memorial, according to the commission’s executive director Lionell Thomas.
Thomas told the Blade this week that the Commission also had to pay for McClurkin’s airline ticket and for one of the two nights that he was booked to stay at a D.C. hotel due to the abrupt cancellation of McClurkin’s appearance. He said the city made these payments directly to an airline company and a hotel, not to McClurkin.
Mayor Vincent Gray directed the Commission to ask McClurkin to withdraw from appearing at the concert, saying McClurkin’s past public statements condemning homosexuality and his role as an “ex-gay” leader would be inappropriate for an event commemorating Martin Luther King’s call for equality for all people.
Thomas said the Commission was obligated to pay McClurkin his full $5,000 performance fee under a contract that a producer retained by the Commission had entered into with McClurkin. Thomas said both the Commission staff and the 17-member commission appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council did not play a direct role in selecting McClurkin for the concert, which was entitled, “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King.”
“This was part of a much larger performance contract that we have with a producer to present approximately seven shows over a period of time, and this is one of the shows that we were presenting,” Thomas said.
“He was invited to be a part of the program by the producer,” Thomas said of McClurkin. “It typically doesn’t go through the Commission for that level of detail.”
But Thomas acknowledged the Commission was ultimately responsible for the selection. He said the Commission staff was not aware of McClurkin’s controversial statements about gays and homosexuality at the time the producer booked his appearance.
The mayor’s office said Gray had not been informed in advance of McClurkin’s booking to appear at the concert.
“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 be a distraction at an event about peace, love and justice for all,” mayoral spokesperson Doxie McCoy told the Blade.