Dianne Wilkerson vs. The Black Ministerial Alliance



I’m breathing deep sighs of relief. Not just because of the sudden beach weather, but because the media is no longer perceived as the sharpest thorn in black Boston’s backside. At least not yesterday; and at least not from where I sat at last night’s small assembly at the YMCA on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury.

Early Monday morning my office received an email that was frantically titled “EMERGENCY COMMUNITY MEETING!” Knowing that I’ve recently dealt with such matters as they pertain to Boston’s minority locales and their imploding power structures, my colleague promptly forwarded the announcement to me for exploration. It read:

“Your presence is needed at this VERY URGENT MEETING regarding our leaders and the divisiveness that is bringing our community to ruin. We, the people of this community are asking for an explanation of the accusation that members of the Black Ministerial Alliance conspired to destroy Senator Dine [Sic] Wilkerson…”

At first glance, this appeared to be a follow-up to an elusive December 17 community huddle held by former Senator Wilkerson at the Eliot Congregational Church in Roxbury. At the event – which I was not told about ahead of time and at which reporters weren’t welcome – Wilkerson allegedly accused the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) of conspiring with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and State Senate President Therese Murray to sandbag her in exchange for state funding.

In their defense, Boston Ten-Point Coalition Director and black ministerial leader Reverend Jeffrey Brown told Dorchester Reporter News Editor Pete Stidman – who from what I can tell is the only journalist who immediately dug into this – that “Any allegations that the ministers were going to lose money is flat-out false…a figment of someone’s wild imagination.”

Monday’s meeting at the YMCA was not a follow-up to Wilkerson’s tirade, but instead a staunch backing of the BMA position. While the press release seemed critical of ministers’ asking Wilkerson to step down, the organizer – Amir Shakir (A/K/A MC Spice) of Roxbury’s Man-Up Movement – was so defensive of the clergy that one might suspect him of auditioning for divine approval.

While the Man-Up email was questionably deceptive and even quasi-threatening (the end read: “THERE WILL BE ABSOLUTELY NO ADMITTANCE TO THIS MEETING WITHOUT AN RSVP TO THIS EMAIL”), Shakir was sincere about his intentions once folks arrived at the YMCA. “I’m not a supporter of Dianne,” he conceded. “This meeting is so that people can hear the other side of what was said at her last meeting.”

The only problem was that the “other side” didn’t really show up. The few clergymen on hand included Codman Square Pastor Bruce Wall, who is unaffiliated with the BMA, and Charles St. AME Church Reverend Greg Groover, who emphasized that while he is a member of both the BMA and the Ten-Point Coalition, he was only there to represent himself.

“I was at the press conference when the BMA and the senator made the joint statement,” said Groover, referring to the day Wilkerson dropped out of the Second Suffolk Senate District race. “It happened at my church, where I knew that the senator would be treated justly and fairly by the clergy…I do not remember anything being said at any BMA meeting regarding anyone feeling compelled to urge [Wilkerson] to resign so that they could receive funding.”

While Groover was levelheaded in his explanation that there was concern amongst BMA members that Wilkerson’s legal predicament could congest the flow of funds to her constituents (as opposed to specific subsidies for churches), he became uncharacteristically unhinged about Shakir’s calling for a conference in the first place: “Did anyone think to maybe sit down with the black clergy and discuss these allegations before we had a public meeting about them?” Groover asked. 

Shakir, who stated that his main concern is that “this situation doesn’t grow legs and end up in a courthouse so that the black community loses another set of leaders,” hardly disguised his pro-BMA position. In addition to relaying a redemptive message from Reverend Brown, he made it clear that his was the inappropriate venue for people to reinforce accusations that were leveled at Wilkerson’s December 17 meeting. At one point he interrupted a man for suggesting that the BMA should not be in the business of asking publicly elected officials to step down.

The meeting got somewhat heated, as person after person condemned church leaders for serving few interests other than their own. One man heaved a torrent of nasty epithets at Wall and Groover and ripped: “If the credibility of the church is in question, then that’s understandable.” Even some God-fearing women in the room nodded.

The exchange lasted just over one hour, with Groover defending the clergy’s constitutional right to endorse and decry public officials, and BMA opponents blasting the organization for its negligent prioritization and distance from the public. “The BMA has gone to bat for Mayor Menino, and for the police, who have murdered black men, and for free golf,” said New Black Panther Party Boston Chairman Jamarhl Crawford. “But where are they when the community needs them? They’re unreachable – you can’t get in touch with them.”

The obvious and essential question here is – or at least should be – whether certain members of the BMA leadership conspired to knock down Wilkerson. But there are certainly deeper and more difficult issues also looming such as “Why would pastors and reverends do such a thing?” At this time – whether it’s true or not – one prevailing theory is that a select few BMA honchos acted to secure money and power for their own narrow interests. Since this story still mostly exists behind closed doors, I’m not sure what’s happening at this juncture; but it wouldn’t be the first time that someone acted on those motives.      


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