The Rev. Manuel Sykes
We recently caught up with Sykes, the longtime pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, one of the area's most prominent African-American congregations. Although an official date has not been set, Sykes has announced plans to retire from the post. His goal is to complete his dissertation for a doctorate in counseling psychology through Argosy University in Sarasota. "I'd like to one day open a private practice. I'd like to counsel pastors,'' said Sykes, 59. "Pastors rarely have a confidential source that is nonjudgmental, and many of them suffer from mental health issues like depression. They need an outlet.''
Sykes is in Orlando for Christmas morning, celebrating with family. One of his four children, Ephraim Sykes, impressed a nationwide audience about one month ago on NBC's Hairspray Live! as Seaweed J. Stubbs.
What's on your nightstand?
I have a number of articles that have to do with my dissertation. It has to do with resilience and African-American pastors. Statistics say that 1,500 pastors leave their ministry (each month). What I'm looking at has to do with depression, family issues and how it relates to pastoral stressors. I'm looking at, in particular, the stress, mental health and physical health for African-Americans. An important fact is that there is a link between the stress of racism and the hardening of arteries. It's linked to African-American youth as early as age 10 with heart disease.
When it comes to racism in the current political climate, is there an author you'd recommend people read for better understanding?
I would encourage everyone, of all races, to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I also think when you read Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, it's always helpful because it's important to remember the reaction we have is more powerful when we don't stoop to the level of the oppressor. A lot of white people think and say there is no racism now. They say the past should be left in the past. They'll say to look at how far we've come, but how racism has evolved needs to be understood by whites so they understand that the plight of African-Americans and other minorities has not changed. It's that the forces against them have evolved in a clandestine, almost intellectual way.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.