Mary Tutwiler

Al Sharpton speaks in Houma for MLK celebration

by Mary Tutwiler

In a flying swing through the nation that brought him to Atlanta on Friday, Chicago on Sunday, and Harlem for his annual Martin Luther King celebration today, the Reverend Al Sharpton made a pass through the bayou community of Houma on Saturday.

Invited by the Terrebonne Parish NAACP, Sharpton arrived Saturday evening at the New Rising Sun Baptist Church to a packed crowd. Invoking King’s mission to create racial equality, Sharpton cautioned that even the election of a black president has not leveled the playing field.

Racism still exists, Sharpton told the audience, citing education and financial status as examples of inequality. “I say we’re in a post-racial conversation,” he told the Houma Courier. “We’re trying to talk as if we’re past race.”

Sharpton cited the example of former Tangipahoa Parish justice of the peace Keith Bardwell’s refusal to marry interracial couples. He also denounced televangelist Pat Robertson, who last week made controversial comments about the earthquake in Haiti. Robertson, on his TV show, said that Haitian slaves, under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, “swore a pact to the devil” to obtain their freedom from the French colonial government in 1800. Robertson said the Haitians told Satan, “We will serve you,” and that “ever since, they have been cursed.”

French Louisiana welcomed thousands of refugees, both black and white, from the revolution in Haiti, and has maintained strong ties with the Francophone island nation.

Sharpton refuted Robertson’s remarks. “What kind of Christianity judges people in need?” he told The Courier. “To be so mean, insensitive and callous in the name of God needs to be challenged.” Sharpton also addressed Robertson’s remarks in an interview with the New York Daily News on Sunday. “This was a natural disaster. These people did nothing to deserve this. That’s why I can’t get over these right wing pseudo-preachers who criticize the needy instead of helping them. It’s sick and immoral and despicable.”

Sharpton has been raising money for the relief effert in Haiti, and after his MLK celebration in New York today, he will fly to Haiti. “It would be the height of hypocrisy to talk about celebrating Dr. King and not deal with Haiti,” he told The New York Daily News.

Locally, artist Tina Girouard, who lived and worked in Haiti, and who has maintained close ties with Haitian artists, suggests that we make donations to Doctors Without Borders, which has free clinics throughout Haiti.