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The Covenant with Black America
by Max Smith
2006-05-01

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The Covenant With Black America, a book on The New York Times' top 10 list of bestsellers in April 2006, was published by Third World Press of Chicago. It has an introduction by Tavis Smiley and a statement of purpose by Marian Wright Edelman. It is organized into 10 covenants, each one a concise essay that states facts about an issue and gives specific recommendations as to what every individual and every community can do now to solve the problem. Specific real-life examples of successful ways to solve the problem show what works now.

The Ten Covenants are as follows:

1. Securing The Right To Healthcare and Well-Being;

2. Establishing A System of Public Education In Which All Children Achieve At High Levels And Reach Their Full Potential;

3. Correcting The System Of Unequal Justice;

4. Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing;

5. Ensuring Broad Access To Affordable Neighborhoods That Connect To Opportunity;

6. Claiming our Democracy;

7. Strengthening Our Rural Roots;

8. Accessing Good Jobs, Wealth, And Economic Prosperity;

9. Assuring Environmental Justice for All; and

10. Closing the Racial Digital Divide.

A repeated call is made to ' [ h ] old all leaders and elected officials responsible and demand that they change current policy.'

When elected leaders change current policy and community groups and individuals work this well-thought-out plan for change, people of all sexual orientations will benefit. Yet the plans for changes spelled out in these 10 covenants reveal—by the omission of any and all concerns specific to same-gender-loving men and women—an irony. Several times, the book mentions the long history of excluding African-American concerns from the mainstream American political agenda because of racism. However, by choosing not to include lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community concerns, is the book avoiding controversy to boost sales among homophobic people? Or is our collective Black same-gender-loving community voice still too closeted to be heard?

In 2004, George W. Bush attracted just enough conservative homophobic Black religious voters to the polls in Ohio to pass a state constitutional ban on gay marriage and to win that state's electoral college votes and, thus, the election. Republican Alan Keyes, although unsuccessful in his 2004 campaign for a Senate seat from Illinois, appealed to socially conservative Black voters by being outspoken in opposition to gay rights. Illinois State Senator Rev. James Meeks is setting the same anti-gay strategy as Keyes, while supporting Covenant Two, in a possible run for governor.

One problem is that 2000 years ago—at the time the Gospels were selected—only about 10 percent of the people could read and write in the areas where the Bible was being put together. Down through the centuries, the interpretations and understandings of the literate religious elites determined how social traditions were formed.

By the time Africans were imported into America, the religious elites of the era of slavery taught a King James version of the Bible in English that was interpreted to give moral foundation to racism, sexism and homophobia. African-American religious denominations and institutions formed under that triple yoke of church-sanctioned oppression. Quickly, scriptural supports for racism were broken down and, as time goes by, scriptural supports for sexism is exiting Black churches.

Anybody who has been through the higher education system of the 20th and 21st centuries ( any given trade school, technical institute or state college ) can reason and interpret scripture upon study of the Bible. Too few people in the Black same-gender-loving community are actively and vocally making the case for a prompt end to the scriptural basis of Black church-based homophobia. Some have even cynically rejected the endeavor of Rev. Al Sharpton and Black Men's Exchange activist Mr. Cleo Manago to challenge the Black church's homophobia without giving either man even the benefit of the doubt. The way many folks leave Bible study and interpretation to conservative religious leaders—instead of reading it and studying it for ourselves—is a throwback to a long-bygone era.

I propose another covenant to The Covenant With Black America:

11. Acknowledge, Appreciate And Affirm Same-Gender-Loving People.

The Black community can do this by encouraging open communication on all matters of human sexuality. Honesty is the number one moral value needed when discussing a crucial issue regarding marital fidelity, bisexuality and adultery: the 'down low' phenomenon. Honesty must be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at all times. Hold all leaders and elected officials responsible and demand that they change the trend to enact gay marriage bans. African-American political and cultural leaders ought to always attempt to expand or at least maintain existing civil rights and liberties.

This is what every individual can do now: Learn the word ARSENOKOTAI. In the New Testament's 1 Corinthians 6:9, the apostle Paul uses this Greek word specifically to describe men who commit acts of male-on-male rape as immoral acts. Learn the word MALACHOI. In the New Testament's 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul uses this Greek word specifically to describe acts of male/male prostitution as immoral ones. Also, learn the word ABOMINATION. In numerous places the Levitical Holiness Code, of the Old Testament, says that many human activities—from eating pork and shrimp to wearing wool and cotton clothes at the same time—are abominations, acts that make a person temporarily unfit to enter a Jewish Temple.

This proposed 11th covenant separates the wheat from the chaff. It affirms same-gender love. It condemns gay rape and recognizes that sex for money is business, not love.

I urge you to please learn the accurate meanings of these three words. Communicate their meanings confidently and repeatedly to break down Black church-based homophobia.

Comments or concerns? E-mail MaxsonnCS@aol.com .


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