By Michael Harriot
In a struggling business district in heart of Detroit, Michigan, the storied and historic institution of the Black Church exhaled her last wisp of wind and passed on to the great beyond. She was found sickly and mangled, a shadow of her former self, huddled in a corner afraid to show her disfigured face immediately following an invitation-only Donald Trump rally organized by brain surgeon, politician and attempted penis stabber Ben Carson. Almost unrecognizable after centuries of praise, worship and uplift, she expired after whispering her last words, “Oh lord. What have I become?” She was over 400 years old.
Although no one has ben able to pinpoint her exact date of birth, the Black church was born before the founding of America during a time where her parishioners could be killed if the secret that they could read the Bible leaked outside her doors. Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina—the first African Methodist Episcopal church in the South—managed to survive after it was burned to the ground when one of it’s founders Denmark Vesey was implicated in a slave revolt. Almost 200 years later, it managed to withstand echoes of the same wrath when a new millennium White supremacist opened fire and killed 9 members during a Wednesday night Bible study.
Even during her youth, the Black Church displayed an unwavering loyalty to her people. She teamed up with her oldest sister, Freedom as the only umbrella protecting Black people from the storm. She was at least eleven of the stops on the Underground Railroad. She was the first Black schoolhouses. When Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves in ten states would be free on January 1, 1863, they gathered inside her to make sure it was true at the first “Watchnight Services.” She registered voters. She organized boycotts.
As she got older, the Black Church met and married the love of her life, Civil Rights. They gave us Martin Luther King. She gave us Malcolm X (Yes, the Nation of Islam is technically a Black church). She gave us Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. We saved out best fashion for her. All of our greatest music is just variations from praises she taught us. She was our first teacher, biggest advocate and greatest consoler.
It is difficult to know when she started getting sick. Some say it was when the fur-coated Daddy Grace convinced someone to pay him for a cotton square he called a “prayer cloth,” spawning endless generations of Rolls Royce-driving vampire progeny, sucking the faith and wealth out of Black communities. They say the “prosperity gospel” is just the phlegm she coughed up when she was dying that paid for Creflo Dollar’s airplane and funded Eddie Long’s molestation payoffs.
Others noticed she was dying when her husband died and they spotted the cast of usurpers waiting to bed her. Jesse Jackson tried to seduce her when he paraded around in a turtleneck he had smeared with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s blood. Al Sharpton looked to hold the mantle while promoting Tawana Brawley’s fake rape or serving as a mob informant after he was caught agreeing to sell cocaine in Black neighborhoods. By the time anyone recognized the symptoms it was too late.
She had already changed by then, too weak to fight off the impending doom. She was too sick to make her presence known in Ferguson. She shucked and jived so bad in Baltimore that they ran her off.This once-noble institution that had sturdied the backbone of an entire race, handed down freedom and defeated Jim Crow was now a home for hucksters and charlatans. She was a sickly, skin and bones shadow of her former self, replete with ATMs in her lobbies and leaders who drove luxury cars, starred in reality shows and lived in sprawling mansions. She was sucked dry of truth and dignity.
There were slivers of light in her eyes. Her true friends and supporters intermittently gathered around to revive her. But this spring they realized her sickness was terminal when Black church preachers endorsed the same politician who called Black men “Superpredators” and forced Barack Obama to distance himself from his Black pastor as a preacher of the same “liberation gospel” that founded the Black church. By the time Black preachers had assembled to endorse Donald Trump, it was only a matter of time. On Saturday morning, when Trump’s main supporter, Mark Burns, was exposed as a liar and con artist during a CNN interview, the Black Church, hung its head in shame and went into a coma. Around the same time, people from the Detroit neighborhood protested while their local church banned them from attending for the sole purpose of spotlighting and lending Black credibility to a politician supported by the same church-shooting, slave-hunting constituency that put her on death’s door. Finally, the Black church gave up the ghost.
She is survived by the bastard megachurches and 501(c) 3, worship centers, too many to name here who have disassociated themselves from social justice, community unity or the fight for Black people. They are Sunday social destinations. They are untaxed tithes collectors. Builders of funds. Stackers of chips.
In lieu of flowers they will accept cash, checks, credit cards, EBT, WIC, Bitcoin and even bags of weed.
Anything but souls.
They no longer save them.
R.I.P. Black Church. You will be missed.