Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

St. Petersburg's NAACP chapter criticizes Kriseman, gay rights groups for opposition to MLK event speaker

The Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore has faced criticism from gay activists for his views.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore has faced criticism from gay activists for his views.
Published Jan. 9, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — In another sign of friction between key constituencies of the local Democratic Party, the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP issued a statement Friday that said Mayor Rick Kriseman and gay activists went too far in objecting to a forthcoming speaking engagement by a controversial Baltimore pastor.

Known for his anti-gay rights views, the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Jan. 18 MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast. Local gay rights groups said Bryant's invitation should be rescinded. Kriseman declined to offer him a ceremonial key to the city because of his inflammatory remarks, the mayor's staff said.

In a statement emailed by Maria Scruggs, the president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP, the civil rights organization said it was "saddened" that they took offense at Bryant's appearance.

"We must all learn to love and embrace those that have views that diametrically oppose our own, particularly when those beliefs are grounded in one's faith and religion," the statement said. "Instead of attempting to dictate who (event organizers) should invite or not invite … they could have taken the opportunity to request an audience with Pastor Bryant."

Attempts at a boycott, the statement said, was evidence that the "African-American community in St. Petersburg has for far too long been taken for granted."

Kriseman said Friday that he would attend the MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast, which is organized by the local branch of the National Council of Negro Women. He said he won't sit quietly.

"I think it's an opportunity for me to state what our values are and to educate him to what our values are as a community," Kriseman said. "I clearly don't agree with what he has to say. Whether he takes to heart what I say or not will be for him to decide, but I want our community to know who we are and I want to reinforce that very loud and clear."

Kriseman said his mind wasn't changed by the local NAACP branch, which relaunched late last year after being shuttered for about a year.

"That's an opinion expressed by a group. That doesn't mean that group speaks for the entire African-American community. I think there are many in the African-American community who don't agree with the pastor's positions," Kriseman said.

The lead organizer for the event for the local branch of the National Council of Negro Woman, Angela Rouson, hasn't responded to requests for comment.

Earlier this week, her husband, state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, defended Bryant's appearance, saying it would be a good ministering opportunity to help a national figure known for his work in the Black Lives Matter movement evolve his views on gay rights.

But he subsequently changed his mind, joining St. Pete Pride, the Stonewall Democrats and about a dozen gay rights and Black Lives Matter activists in calling for his invitation to be rescinded.

Some St. Petersburg black ministers, such as the Rev. Clarence Williams, have rallied to Bryant's side.

Bryant, who calls homosexuality a sin on par with gambling and drug addiction, has not responded to requests for comment. On Friday, an account registered in his name retweeted a Tampa Bay Times blog post about the local NAACP's position.

Bryant has served as the national NAACP's youth and college division director. He leads a 10,000-member congregation at the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore and has been a vocal leader in the Black Lives Matter movement and during the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray while in custody last year.

Kriseman downplayed the flap over Bryant's appearance. He said it didn't point to any larger conflict between black churches and gay rights groups, both of which are part of the Democratic Party's local power base.

"I think that's painting it with too broad a brush," he said.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. “My body, my choice” was the rallying cry on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the state Capitol, where abortion rights activists decried a fast-tracked bill that would raise the bar for minors seeking abortions. (AP Photo/Aileen Perilla) [AILEEN PERILLA  |  AP]
    Abortion supporters worry about Florida’s move toward parental consent and what may follow.
  2. Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the ​U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    It’s also the first visit by any Democratic contender this year
  3. Jimmy Patronis had been appointed to the state’s Public Service Commission by Gov. Scott.
    FDLE cited a ‘potential conflict,’ Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell said.
  4. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    Florida students will read more classical literature and learn math differently, according to summary documents.
  5. Florida House Speaker José Oliva made hospital deregulation one of his top priorities. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
    Speaker José Oliva slammed pharmaceutical companies in his opening day speech, but a bill to place $100 caps on co-payments for insulin will not pass this year. In fact, it won’t even get a hearing.
  6. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Judge Renatha Francis has not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years.
  7. State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. [[LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]]
    Like it has since the Parkland massacre, the gun debate is growing fierce in Tallahassee. But there are some significant changes this year.
  8. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James talks with his Director of Communications Kathleen Walter while going over the state of the city address in his office at the City of West Palm Beach municipal building in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James leads a city about the same size as Buttigieg’s South Bend. Here’s what his day looks like. Is this presidential experience?
  9. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “Death is indeed different,” wrote the lone dissenting justice. “This Court has taken a giant step backward."
  10. State Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, presents legislation to create a new chapter of Florida law dedicated to parents' rights when dealing with government and other agencies, during a committee meeting Jan. 23, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Parents have been marginalized by bureaucracy, and need to be empowered in law, sponsor Rep. Erin Grall says.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement