Are Black Churches and Black Preachers relevant in today’s world?

By Noble Johns

With so little to show as for as Black empowerment in America, and with seemingly great influence among some Backs, the question must be asked, are Black Churches and Black Preachers relevant in today’s world of information technology? I think not!

As I speak. prominent Black prechers said they will work to combat Christian conservatives they say have used gay marriage and abortion to distract from larger moral issues such as the war, voting rights, affirmative action and poverty.

The Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery and hundreds of black preachers from around the country are focusing on mobilizing black voters for the fall elections. They kicked off a three-day black clergy conference Monday in Dallas.

"There are no gay people coming to our churches asking to get married," Sharpton said. "But there are plenty of people coming with problems voting or their sons in jail."

Sharpton said tours are planned of swing states starting in July to bring out black voters and push Democrats to take a tougher stand on social justice issues.

Jackson said the mid-term elections, which will determine hundreds of congressional seats and many governorships, are a "fight for America's soul."

If Democrats fail to address social concerns, Sharpton said he has not ruled out a run for president in 2008.

A spokesman for evangelical conservatives accused Sharpton of stereotyping Christian conservatives, many of who agree with black churchgoers on key issues.

"Let's not play off each other in ways that are based on stereotypes," said the Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, which includes many conservative churches.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee said Democrats are not taking black voters for granted. The committee has been hiring black organizers, meeting with black leaders and speaking out on issues that concern black voters, she said.

Just another hustle

African American Preachers Call For Boycott of BP, Arco, and Amoco Gas Stations.

A group of prominent black leaders including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton announced Tuesday a boycott of BP PLC, saying the oil company gouges customers and racially discriminates in its business practices.

''One of the biggest issues of our time is energy exploitation,'' Jackson said. ''We are encouraging people to go to other stations and to turn in their gas cards.'' The London-based company was targeted because none of its upper-level executives are black and there are no black owners among its hundreds of U.S. distributors, Jackson said.

BP spokesman Scott Dean defended the company's diversity, saying 15 percent of BP's U.S. employees are black and they account for almost 10 percent of senior officials.

''It is disappointing that (Jackson) is playing the race card against a company that has a long-standing tradition of diversity, that has a work force that mirrors the diversity of the American people,'' Dean said.

Dean said that while none of BP's roughly 600 U.S. distributors are black, the company would like to find black-run companies to distribute gas regionally. A black U.S. distributor who said he was unfairly denied a contract has sued the company, but Dean said BP chose a different bidder with a better proposal.

Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition began weekly protests against the company last week, and he said there are plans to expand the demonstrations after he gained the support Tuesday of about 100 black leaders at a summit in Dallas that ends Wednesday.

Jackson said rising gas prices have disproportionately hurt America's poor, who travel the most for their work and can least afford to pay. He called for Congress to cap gas prices and institute a windfall profits tax that would redirect oil companies' recent record earnings toeducation and social programs.

BP, which runs BP, ARCO and Amoco stations, reported almost $5.3 billion (euro4.22 billion) in profits in the first quarter of 2006.

Dean said high fuel prices are needed to ensure a steady supply for U.S. consumers and prevent shortages.

Sharpton said protesters will converge on BP stations and offices in 12 major cities across the country. Jackson said his group plans to protest at the company's London headquarters.

Sharpton said Congress and other oil companies should take heed.

''If you give British Petroleum a good spanking, it will send a message to the other companies,'' Sharpton said.

Dean said the boycott and protests would not affect ''business as usual'' at BP stations and offices.

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