Shirley Sherrod, the fired-then-reinstated USDA official, was quite the get for the National Association of Black Journalists annual confab in San Diego this week. Too bad NABJ decided to host their yearly conference at Doug Manchester’s Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
There’s some real irony in seeing Sherrod, the instant face of why it pays to end discrimination, delivering a speech at a place owned by a man who believes in discrimination.
Breaking the boycott of Manchester, who donated $125,000 to help pass Prop 8 and then hired gay publicist Howard Bragman to undo his evil, NABJ went forward with its booking at the Hyatt, despite resistance from the organization’s own LGBT Task Force, whose co-chairs Katina Parker and Jonathan Adams say in a statement:
According to NABJ leadership, the National Association of Black Journalists could not have survived the $1.2 million loss that would have resulted from boycotting Manchester Hyatt and breaking the convention contract. Bearing the financial health of the NABJ in mind, the LGBT Task Force has been in talks with the NABJ’s leadership since March, advising on ways to make it clear to our membership, our LGBT Task Force and the public-at-large that NABJ does not endorse discrimination against the LGBT community or unfair and unstable conditions for hotel workers.
As a public association dedicated to making sure that Black people are represented in all aspects of shaping the media, we encouraged our leadership to take a strong stand against all businesses that treat people like second-class citizens.
Our recommendations included: releasing a strong public statement to NABJ membership detailing the situation with the hotel and steps that are being taken to avoid future instances where the organization finds itself bound to an unacceptable contract; making a long-term commitment to offering journalistic trainings about LGBT issues to members; and offering resources to members who are dealing with acceptance issues of family and friends who are LGBT.
Moreover, guess who was also there? Donnie McClurkin!
To date, NABJ leadership has not taken the public stand that represents our core values of equity, workplace safety, and mutual collegial respect. Additionally, NABJ has invited ex-gay gospel performer Donnie McClurkin to sing at the opening plenary. Recently, Boston Mayor Tom Menino chose not to attend a McClurkin performance at Boston’s Gospelfest because of his widely publicized homophobic views.
Back in June, NABJ president Kathy Y. Times did offer this response:
I also would like to address some members’ uneasiness about the San Diego host hotel and its developer’s religious views on same-sex marriage. Hotel owner Doug Manchester contributed money to Proposition 8, a measure passed in 2008 that bans same-sex marriage in California. While Mr. Manchester owns the hotel, the Hyatt Corporation is progressive and has domestic-partner policies. Click here to read about Mr. Manchester’s recent apology on this issue.
While our organization values the diversity of its members, breaking the legal agreement would cost NABJ $1.2 million. NABJ negotiated the San Diego hotel contract more than five years ago before this issue surfaced. We are making progress in paying off a six-figure convention debt from 2009. NABJ’s leadership has been very proactive in renegotiating hotel rates and convention space to avoid attrition penalties like those imposed on us by Tampa hotels.
And so on Thursday, there was Sherrod, speaking at an event that put money into the pockets of Manchester, saying, “If the suffering I’ve endured and the joy I’ve felt gets that discussion back out there, we’ve got to deal with it.”
It’s hard to fault NABJ for sticking with Manchester’s hotel if it’s true the agreement was five years old, and they would’ve taken a $1.2 million hit — that would’ve gone into Manchester’s coffers anyhow. But I agree with the group’s own LGBT Task Force: Condemn the activities of your host before stepping foot inside. Says the group: “[W]e are disappointed that our concerns and professional advisement were disregarded and had hoped to resolve these matters privately, prior to this year’s convention. Because of our collective standing in the community, many of us as journalists and some of us as media activists, we are compelled to make a public statement explaining our position on these matters.”