American civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton has a resume suited for a legend. The Baptist minister from Brownsville has rattled so many republican cages, he has made it to the list of conservative’s most hated political figures.
But why do they hate him so much? He’s been regularly called a fake preacher, a political provocateur, and a racist by the conservative media. Fox News recently attacked Sharpton for discussing the attack on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, while appearing on MSNBC. Conservative pundits threw out accusations of antisemitism, claiming Sharpton helped strain relations between Jewish and Black communities in the 80s and 90s. What is eye-opening is that when Fox or other conservative pundits talk about Sharpton, they never mention any of the important things he’s done for the Black community over the years. Sharpton was able to build from the legacy of Jesse Jackson and continue a fight for equal rights that has been an important issue for Blacks since the inception of this country.
Conservatives love to blame Al Sharpton for the 1991 Crown Heights riots but never address the reasons for Black unrest at the time.
Anytime Black folks so-called “riot,” white conservatives love to find a Black scapegoat. If he’s a respected Black leader, even better–they can kill two birds with one stone, tarnish the legacy of a powerful Black man, and stoke fear in the hearts of white America. It’s been a part of their racist recipe for decades. They did it to MLK, they did it to Malcolm X, and they did it to Jesse Jackson. A Black man with the power to move the people must be discredited.
Let’s take a look at how Sharpton built such a powerful legacy and how it led to so much republican hate.
Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr. was born on October 3, 1954. The church was Sharpton’s second home. He preached his first sermon at the age of four and was licensed and ordained a Pentecostal minister at the age of nine. He became a Baptist and was re-baptized s a member of the Bethany Baptist Church in 1994. The claim that Sharpton is not a real minister is just a flat-out lie.
In 1969, Sharpton served as youth director of the New York City branch of Operation Breadbasket under the tutelage of Jesse Jackson. The organization focused on promoting better jobs for Blacks in America. A few years later Sharpton would become youth director for the presidential campaign of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. He also founded the National Youth Movement in 1971, to raise resources for poor Black youths.
In 1984, Sharpton learned he had the power to mobilize his community and demand change. This was the kind of power that frightened conservatives and Sharpton leaned into it. December 20, 1986, three Black men were attacked by a white mob in queens. A week later, Sharpton had mobilized a march of over 1,200 demonstrators who marched through the Queens neighborhood demanding change. The protest made national news and Sharpton was propelled into the national spotlight.
Sharpton created the National Action Network in 1991. The organization was designed to increase voter education, provide services to those in poverty, and support small community businesses. It is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation with chapters throughout the entire United States. They fight for criminal justice reform, police accountability, voting rights, youth leadership, and so much more.
His inspiration goes beyond social justice. His weight loss journey is an inspiration in itself. The civil rights living legend went from 305 lbs. to 130 lbs. in less than five years.
“I actually lost more weight than I am,” said Sharpton in an interview with People Magazine. “And I did it without surgery!”
According to the interview, Sharpton started losing weight by weaning himself off of meats and starches.
“It’s always the same salad: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, two or three hard-boiled eggs cut in, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing,” said Sharpton. My doctor said to me, ‘You’ve got to have some carbs and you need protein,’ so he put me on whole-wheat toast.”
Right-wing conservatives want you to believe Rev. Al Sharpton shouldn’t be celebrated, but if they had their way, we wouldn’t have any Black American heroes, except the ones on conservative payroll. Al Sharpton’s legacy means a lot to the Black community and he deserves his flowers right now.