CHICAGO (FinalCall.com)–Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton rode into town on controversy Feb. 9, and the debate continued long after he left.

Invited to speak at St. Sabina Catholic Church by Father Michael Pfleger, Rev. Sharpton’s appearance was denounced by Francis Cardinal George. The head of the Chicago archdiocese said it was inappropriate to allow a presidential candidate to use the pulpit as a forum. Also, a handful of anti-abortion protesters marched outside the church during the Sunday morning mass.

Rev. Sharpton, who is a pro-choice candidate, said to the protesters that it was “the height of hypocrisy to love babies at conception and not love them after they’re born” by fighting for prenatal care, affordable housing and equal education for all.


Invited to speak on the Civil Rights Movement during the church’s Black History Month celebration, Rev. Sharpton began his message by warning that war on Iraq is imminent. He denounced the Bush administration’s motives for war, saying Secretary of State Colin Powell recently showed the UN some tapes and photos but no weapons in Iraq, “yet we know there are weapons in (North) Korea” but U.S. is not threatening North Korea with an attack.

He also said Pres. Bush did not mention the name of Osama bin Laden in his State of the Union message, even though Mr. bin Laden is said to be responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America.

Drawing laughter from the crowd, Rev. Sharpton said Mr. bin Laden “makes more videos than Mary J. Blige,” yet the CIA can’t find him.

More seriously, he remarked: “Those who are supposed to be speaking out (against the war) are afraid to speak out. It makes us who are raising our voices seem extreme.

“They say ‘you’re either with us or against us.’ Against who?” he asked. “Who is the ‘us’? The rich who get tax cuts, those who oppose affirmative action even though Bush went to school on preferences?”

Regarding the civil rights struggle, Rev. Sharpton chided Blacks for ignoring their past.

“There’s a disturbing phenomenon happening in America, especially Black America,” he said. “A lot of us are unmindful of how we got where we are. I call it Negro amnesia.”

The founder of the National Action Network said parents have allowed Hollywood culture to tell Black children that Black culture is “acting like a thug” and disrespecting women.

“That’s not a Black thing. Decadence is not our culture. We didn’t get here by how low we can act, calling our mothers whores and bitches and selling dope on the corner. Our history was, we struggled against the odds,” he said.

Calling the roll of Blacks who lost their lives to get the right to vote, Rev. Sharpton said Blacks now are “too lazy and ungrateful to get up and go to the polls.”

“We got over the Jim Crow river, but you forgot the God you knew in Alabama and Mississippi,” he said. “God will reward those who stand for what’s right. When we had nothing, we had our faith.”

Fr. Pfleger, a controversial, yet popular, White pastor of a predominantly Black congregation who has had run-ins with the church hierarchy in the past, defended his invitation to Rev. Sharpton.

“I invited Rev. Sharpton because he’s a civil rights leader who continues to be a voice in the wilderness. He continues to raise issues that America continues to deny,” he said.

And besides, “it makes sense to have a Black man talk to Black people in Black History Month,” he said.

-James Muhammad