Controversial gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said God delivered him from the “sin” of homosexuality, has accused D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray of violating his civil rights by requesting that he withdraw as a performer at a concert last Saturday at the Martin Luther King Memorial.
Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy released a statement to the Blade on the day before the concert saying the mayor directed the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to ask McClurkin to withdraw on grounds that his appearance would be a “distraction at an event about peace, love and justice for all.”
The mayor’s directive came one day after gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell said McClurkin’s past inflammatory statements comparing gays to drug dealers and prostitutes were “vile” and were at odds with King’s call for ending discrimination and injustice.
The Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a city agency, organized the concert as the kick-off for a series of events over the next two weeks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
McCoy said the mayor’s office had not been aware that the commission invited McClurkin to perform at the concert, which was entitled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King.”
In a video released several hours before the 8 p.m. concert was scheduled to begin on Aug. 10, McClurkin said the mayor’s office and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities incorrectly claimed he and the city came to a mutual agreement that he withdraw as a performer.
“Last night on the way to the airport we received a phone call from the promoters who received word from the mayor’s office…that I was not welcome and uninvited the night before the concert,” McClurkin said on his video, which was posted on YouTube.
“It’s bullying,” he said. “It’s discrimination. It’s intolerance. It’s depriving someone of his civil rights when told he cannot come to an event and by coming it would cause a disruption.”
In an Aug. 11 press release, a spokesperson for the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity said “pastors from throughout the city contacted the mayor’s office to insist” that McClurkin, himself a minister, be included in the concert as planned. The release says Gray ignored the request.
“Mayor Gray has systematically and deliberately done everything possible to strike at the fabric of the faith community – at least the sector of us who opposed his views,” Rev. Patrick J. Walker, president of the Baptist group, stated in the release. “This, however, is an atrocity and cannot be tolerated.”
Walker was among the leaders of the opposition to D.C.’s same-sex marriage law at the time the proposed measure came before the City Council in 2009.
The Washington Post reported Monday night that mayoral spokesperson Rob Marus said the city still plans to pay McClurkin $10,000 he is owed under a performance contract drawn up at the time the Commission invited him to take part in the event.
LGBT advocates in D.C. and in other parts of the country, upon learning of McClurkin’s latest comments criticizing the mayor’s decision to seek his withdrawal from the King Memorial concert, defended Gray’s action, saying McClurkin’s record as a leader of the “ex-gay” movement made him a divisive figure.
“If Donnie McClurkin was a white supremacist who called African Americans ‘vampires,’ ‘sissies’ and ‘evil’ people, then compared our existence to diabetes, he would never have been invited to perform on any stage in the District,” said gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green of Ward 8. Green was referring to words that McClurkin used to describe gay people in past public appearances.
“All I ask is we end the double standard,” Green said in a Facebook posting Monday night. “The days of the great Bayard Rustin are no longer here. There is no more delegating my gay brothas and sistas to the back room to shut their mouths for the good of the cause. We are all part of the cause!” he said.
Journalist and commentator Rod McCullom, who writes about issues affecting the black LGBT community on his blog Rod 2.0: Beta Gay News, disputed in a blog posting Monday night McClurkin’s claim that he was a victim of discrimination and bullying when Mayor Gray took steps to cancel his performance at the King Memorial.
“McClurkin is correct about one thing,” McCullom wrote. “This is about ‘bullying’ and ‘intolerance’…except he is not on the side of ‘love, unity, peace and tolerance.’ McClurkin has become the poster child for the church-based homophobia and intolerance that is harassing, bullying and making life horrible for millions of black gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender youth in the church.”