Friday, August 10, 2012

Did NOM's anti-gay pastor lie about involvement in Civil Rights Movement?

Rev. William Owens
Know Your LGBT History has been postponed this week because of this HOT piece from the Huffington Post.

And the hits keep coming at CAAP (the Coalition of African-American Pastors), the astroturf group of black pastors that the National Organization for Marriage is using in an attempt to sabotage President Obama's African-American support as a part of its wedge strategy.

Earlier today, we learned that CAAP had received monies from anti-gay hate groups such as the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

But now, via the Huffington Post, comes the explosive possibility that the leader of CAAP, William Owens, may have been lying about his history as a civil rights leader:

Owens, who runs a group called the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP), has claimed that he participated in protests and sit-ins in Nashville in the late 1950s. “I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard, for a man to marry a man, and a woman to marry a woman,” he said during a news conference last week at the National Press Club.

. . . But Adam Serwer of Mother Jones spoke to several prominent civil rights leaders who were involved in organizing the Nashville sit-ins and who said they have no recollection of Owens. A librarian at the Nashville Public Library, which maintains an extensive library on the sit-ins and protests, could find no mention of Owens either, outside of a 2004 interview that Owens himself gave with the library in which he said he was involved. 

Here are more details from the Mother Jones article linked in the Huffington Post:

Rev. C.T. Vivian, an ally of Martin Luther King Jr. who helped organize the Nashville sit-ins and who is now president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he did not recall crossing paths with Owens. Rev. James Lawson, the famed practitioner of non-violence who trained the sit-in activists, did not remember Owens either. The same goes for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the major student leaders in the Nashville sit-in movement who went on to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

The only evidence Mother Jones could find of Owens' involvement in the Nashville civil rights movement was at the Nashville Public Library, which maintains an extensive collection of historical materials on the subject. In 2004, the library conducted a 60-minute interview with Owens, in which he describes his role during that era. Other than attending some activist meetings, the only protest he mentioned participating in was the picketing of the drug store where he once worked, according to Jennifer Quire, the Nashville Public Library's educational outreach librarian, who handles the civil rights oral history project and who reviewed the tape for Mother Jones. Even this could have been something of a fluke: Owens told Quire he came across the drugstore being picketed and held up a sign to show his solidarity with the protesters. "There definitely was no leadership role, certainly not on the level of James Lawson or Diane Nash or anything like that," Quire says. (Owens did not respond to repeated queries about his civil rights role in Nashville, including a detailed request concerning his oral history interview with the Nashville library.)

In addition, that same article reveals that Owens' group, CAAP, is in fact receiving funding from NOM.

It's up to Owens to fill in the blanks, but most likely he won't.

I don't think it takes a palm reader to guess that Owens will play the victim. He will probably claim that there is a plot underfoot to undermine him because CAAP's protest is resonating.

Let me kill that lie right now.

CAAP's protest is not resonating and this is not a plot to undermine Owens.

What's going on is a bit of truth-telling.

Owens and his cohorts should try it sometime.

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Josh B said...

Alvin, I hope this doesn't come off as privileged coming from a white gay guy...but since my first boyfriend was black (we broke up years ago, but I'm still very good friends with the guy), I feel like I have about as much insight as a white person, gay or straight, can have into this whole civil rights clusterfuck, and I just want to say, keep doing what you are doing, because you articulate it better than I or anyone I know who shares our opinions ever could...

I just discovered your blog a few days ago, and you have immediately taken your place alongside Dan Savage, Jeremy Hooper, and Andy Towle as one of my favorite gay bloggers, men who are able to put to word what I feel, but can never articulate. Keep up the good work've got a new fan in me.

BlackTsunami said...

Thank you for your kind words, Josh ;p