Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray uninvited Grammy-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin to a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington Saturday because of his testimony about walking away from homosexuality.
“There should be freedom of speech as long as it’s done in love,” McClurkin said in an online video to his fans. “It’s bullying, it’s discrimination, it’s intolerance, and it’s depriving someone of their civil rights to be told they cannot come to an event and by coming it would cause a disruption.”
He said it was ironic that the event was titled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King” yet an African-American man was asked not to attend because of politics.
The trouble started Friday when gay activists approached Gray complaining about McClurkin performing at the government-sponsored event. Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Gray, told The Washington Post that the singer decided not to perform: “The Arts and Humanities Commission and Donnie McClurkin’s management decided that it would be best for him to withdraw because the purpose of the event is to bring people together.”
But McClurkin said it was not a mutual decision, he was informed the night before the event that he would not be performing. He said the concert promoters and local pastors fought hard to allow him to perform, even offering to cover the expense of his performance, but the mayor refused.
“The fight for human rights is a global fight that has to bring us together,” concert director Nolan Williams told the Post. “That has to bring us together whenever there are differences of opinions or differences in views. We still need to find a place to come together even when we don’t agree.”
McClurkin is known for gospel songs such as “Stand” and “We Fall Down.” He has won three Grammy awards, two BET awards, and hosts radio and TV shows. He has been open about his past struggles with homosexuality, writing articles and creating a documentary in 2004 called The Donnie McClurkin Story—From Darkness to Light. In it he reveals he was molested by relatives at the ages of 8 and 13, which led to his homosexual tendencies. He became very involved in church and gospel music, and through it “experienced God’s power to change my lifestyle. I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too.”
McClurkin said that since he’s shared his testimony, he’s faced a lot of heat from the gay community, some calling him a homophobe and others claiming that he’s lying. He said he’s not trying to convert everyone from homosexuality, but “there are some of us that were broken, that are in hell, that don’t want this life.”
In a conversation with Gray’s office before the concert, McClurkin was told his presence at the concert could cause the media and others to vilify him and people would bring up his past. But in the video, a calm McClurkin said the threats do not bother him: “I’ve been in this fight before, there’s not too much threats you can make that would cause me to fear any man, fear any situation.”