WASHINGTON D.C. — The Rev. Charles O. Butts III, pastor of New York’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, pressed the issue of non-violent direct action in his address before the nation’s African-American leaders during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) 44th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 27.
Building upon the theme, “The things which make for peace,” Butts challenged audience members to court peace as power in fighting against the temptations of natural and spiritual enemies.
Citing a move among many upwardly mobile African Americans of choosing personal ambitions above collective need, Butts admonished, “Beware, beloved, of rabid ambition. We do not believe that anything comes above the forward progress of our people. Sacrifice on behalf of the masses is greater than self-interest, and whether we stand in pulpits or whether we stand before legislative bodies, our ultimate allegiance is to that power which has empowered us in the first place.”
Equating the temptation to move away from collective racial uplift with those enticements faced by both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, Butts said that the greatest temptation is to do a right thing for the wrong reason… only to realize one has fallen down and worshiped the temptation of the beast.
Butts cautioned attendees to not be swayed into abandoning the very tenets that secured the social progress they now enjoyed.
“They’ll put you to the test, but you must hold your spirit intact. Stay with God and don’t let them play with your spirit. Look what they’ve done across the centuries and now with social media and with the slickness of media by making you doubt yourself. Remember when they used to tell us you’re too Black to be anything, your hair is too nappy, or your lips are too thick? They were messing with your spirit. They wanted you to doubt yourself,” he said. “You don’t need Black colleges anymore, you don’t need the Howards and Morehouses anymore. They are making you doubt yourselves, Beloved, and why would you ever question the relevance of those bridges that brought you over?”
Attacks on African-American integrity by outside forces, Butts believes, has fostered much of the violence, hostility, and lack of humility within the race.
“Why are we fighting each other? We have been led to believe that somehow we are different because of where we come from, because of how we worship, or because of our political party. We are not different. In fact, as Malcolm X said years ago, ‘They don’t hate you because you’re Baptist, they don’t hate you because you are Democrat or Republican, they don’t hate you because you are Methodist or Buddhist; they hate you because you’re Black.’ I submit that the unity of who we are unites us in our struggle to bring about peace firstly among us,” Butts said.
“We have to engage people where they are and build a larger foundation for where we intend to build this more perfect union. It is with this event this year that the CBCF introduces The Permanence Project – a virtual community where you can have an ALC ever day of the week and know what bills and legislation are coming up and know how to intelligently act on that information. This is not a fight we can win one week out of the year,” Fattah said.