The Rev. Willie Wilson, the national executive director of the Millions More Movement (MMM) who made headlines this summer for homophobic comments during a July sermon, this morning blocked Keith Boykin from taking the stage at the MMM commemoration event in Washington, D.C., this morning, Oct. 15.
Boykin, president of the National Black Justice Coalition reportedly secured his spot in the lineup after a months-long effort led by the NBJC and the D.C. Coalition to secure one male and one female speaker from the African American GLBT community for the MMM event. According to NBJC, a last-minute deal was struck between the NBJC-D.C. Coalition camp and MMM organizers during a midweek meeting that included Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, which organized the event, and Wilson.
Donna Payne, NBJC vice-president, and Boykin reported that they learned of Boykin's removal this morning as they reported to MMM organizers in the shadow of the Capitol. ''I'm so angry,'' Payne said in Freedom Plaza, the spot at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW the NBJC had reserved for a MMM-related rally.
Said Boykin: ''Minister Farrakhan has kept his word with us. Willie Wilson has been the problem.... Wilson refused to shake our hands when we walked in the door. There is a distinction between these two men.''
The morning rally at Freedom Plaza closed with Boykin reading the speech he intended to deliver to the amassed MMM attendees. ''Thank you Minister Farrakhan and Rev. Wilson for the love,'' he said, as part of that intended speech.
After his prepared speech, Boykin continued. ''We have a chance here to do something,'' he told the approximately 200 people gathered at Freedom Plaza. ''We are going to continue marching. We are going to march down to that Mall.''
Shortly thereafter, the plaza emptied and a crowd of about 70 people fell in line behind the NBJC banner for a march down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the MMM event stage in front of the Capitol. Though impromptu, Sgt. Brett A. Parson, head of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit was on hand to provide a vehicular police escort for the marchers. As they marched, the crowd chanted several phrases like, ''We're black! We're gay! We're family!''
Once at the grounds of the Capitol, the gay group was met by assorted cheers, sneers and the Capitol Hill Police. The police told the gay group they would be allowed to enter the MMM event site, which was cordoned by a security entrance. Chanting, however, would be regarded as a counter protest and would not be permitted. The group was nevertheless heard, making their way to the media tent, providing ample opportunity for leaders of the group to get their message out via a number of press interviews, as they mingled with gay-supportive political leaders, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
''Visibility is so important,'' said Payne, standing near the front of the crowd and acknowledging that he moment was historic. ''It sends a message just to stand here.''
Further coverage will appear in the Oct. 20 issue of Metro Weekly.