Politics & Race
Poverty Pimps, Pastor Jamal Bryant and a Baltimore Exorcism

By Michael Harriot

First you need to watch this clip:


I don’t like horror movies.

There a a lot of people who don’t like horror movies because they are often collages of overused tropes and most of them are predictable and boring, but I don’t like them because a horror movie scared the shit out of me. I don’t even remember the name of the movie. I just remember the central theme and character of the film–the succubus.

Succubus(n.) A demon who steals the souls of men by having sex with them while they are asleep

There have always been  a succubus in the Black community. That there is always an opportunist seeking to pounce on poor, oppressed people is probably a socioeconomic phenomenon, but here, we are only concerned with Black, and the Black succubus is easily identifiable, because  they usually carry a Bible, and have prefixed a “Reverend” to their names.

Since Charles Manuel transformed himself to the flamboyant, cape-wearing “Sweet Daddy Grace” and began bamboozling Black folks, there has been a long line of pimps standing in line to suck the souls out of Black communities. They sneak in under the camouflage of Jesus, Allah or some other trusted deity and announce themselves as allies of “the cause” as a means of siphoning whatever that community has to offer into their pockets and bank accounts. Whether it is Al Sharpton profiting the Tywanna Brawly hoax while proclaiming that it will make him one of the “biggest niggers in New York, ” or Jesse Jackson dipping his hands in Martin Luther King’s blood and wiping it on his shirt moments after King was shot, then parading around in the bloody shirt–these men have always sought nefarious ways to become the de facto “leaders” of Black people so they could line their pockets with the sweat and gold of people of color.

There are two problems with this:

The first problem is: It works. Jesse Jackson did become one of the defacto leaders in Black America. And he profited handsomely from using his voice to facilitate a systematic series of corporate shakedowns. He railed against Coca-Cola in the early 1980’s until the soft-drink company decided to award a distributorship to one of Operation Push’s financial backers and gave Jesse Jackson’s brother the first Black distributorship–until his brother received a life sentence for embezzling the money from a Wendy’s franchise and hiring a street gang to kill the man investigating his crimes.

Al Sharpton has never faced consequences for the Tywanna Brawley incident, or for inciting the shooting rampage at Freddy’s Fashion Mart. No one–not even the Black people upset about police brutality–seems to care that the FBI released a report saying Al Sharpton wore a wire as a Mafia informant only because they had him on video arranging a deal to distribute cocaine in Black communitiesInstead, the processed poverty-pimp is the go-to middleman for politicians who want to sell their schemes to Black people and TV networks who want you to believe they cover minority issues.

The second reason is, the Black Church and some of the men who led it have historically been sincere leaders of Black revolution.  See Nat Turner. See Malcolm X. See Martin Luther King. We are always looking for the next savior, which sometimes leads us to endow charlatans the same respect and admiration that we once gave to the true servants of the cause. They prey on our dreams, because they know we are asleep. Then they fuck us.

Which brings us to Jamal Bryant and PFK Boom.

I should disclose that I have “met” both  these men, which illustrates the chasm between their approaches.

While covering the Baltimore uprisings the first place I visited was city hall, where news networks had draped the town square in cameras and lighting fixtures. I was talking with two young men holding protest signs when they spotted Jamal Bryant. As someone who is not very religious (read “not religious at all”), I must admit that I had no idea who he was, but when the two young men men–Baltimore residents and victims of police brutality themselves–tried to meet him, they were shunned for the television cameras.

Later that same night another Baltimore resident, who had no desire to be recorded for an interview, for the low bribe of a Black and Mild invited me to another spot where the “real niggas” in Baltimore were meeting.

You don’t really “meet” Boom as much as you listen to him, but he has the one thing all real leaders, preachers and charlatans all share–charisma. He also has one of the things that the fave reverends and demons never have: He walks the walk.

It would be easy for me to paint PFK Boom as a neighborhood savior who was fighting for Baltimore’s overlooked constituents for years. I could point to this youtube video of him at a city Public Safety meeting warning of the Freddy Gray incident a year before it happened. I could lead you toward articles of him feeding the hungry or talking to media about the plight of the poor in Baltimore. I could paint him as the voice of the people of Baltimore

Similarly, it would take less for me to demonize Jamal Bryant. All you’d have to do is read this article about how Bryant, a publicist and a police officer scripted a “unity marchcomplete with him clad in a dashiki surrounded by political campaign shirts. Or maybe you could watch one of his sermons entitled “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal.” I could bolster my argument with evidence from the child the Pastor reportedly fathered out of wedlock while trying to quiet the mother and calm the controversy with the age-old aphorism long-used by con artists and succubi–“God ain’t through with me yet.”

Maybe Jamal Bryant isn’t an evil opportunist. Maybe he is simply a flawed man, sincere in his efforts to help his community and bring people to God. And Maybe PFK isn’t a street savior superhero building a fence between Baltimore’s “hood” and those who seek to exploit it.

But what happened here, on this video should serve as inspiration for those who always wanted to tell the men who swoop in on every Black tragedy to make a buck, a career or a name for themselves that they should return back to the money-grubbing evil from whence they came. It should serve as a warning to the charlatan, skinny-tie wearing, charismatic sweet-talkers that the people who burn down CVS’s and throw molotov cocktails in the face of Ferguson tanks aren’t the same kumbaya motherfuckers that held hands and sang freedom songs.

When Hillary Clinton, corporations and moderate white people  go to Al Sharpton as an inroad to gain the trust of “the Black community” there are some of us who want to scream “We don’t trust that nigga, either!” But finally, PFK Boom said it for all of us. Regardless of how you feel about Bryant or Boom, you know if someone can make a grown man turn around and retreat when he is supposed to be fighting for his people–he wasn’t really fighting at all.  We don’t need those kinds of soldiers.

We have enough demons. We don’t need them screwing us in our sleep.

About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

Related Posts