By Eric D. Hackley
REDMOND: I could go on and on about my experiences in Fort Wayne. They haven’t been pleasant. I try to support our black businesses in Fort Wayne as much I can. We’re going to have to unite. We can forget about the churches because they’re not going to do anything. Now you got one who went on a 40-day fast to stop the killings, and they’re still killing. They’re having meetings and they’re having vigils. That’s naïve as far as I’m concerned. Show me anything that’s come out of all that? Has anything changed because of all the praying we’ve been doing? We’re still killing each other.
HACKLEY: We’ve got to do something to get our mindsets right. Is there anything we can do right now, because you know we’ve been free for 150 years. And yes reverends have been in charge as our main community leaders and organizers. I am not holding them accountable for the lack of BLACK COMMUNITY social and economic progress since the mid 1960s. But why hasn’t Fort Wayne’s black community progressed? Who do we blame? Who is to blame? Do we blame ourselves? You can blame white supremacy to a large extent, but what’s the real problem?
REDMOND: It’s because we have been seduced by churches and TV and that’s my answer.
Now, if I have a captive audience on Sunday, they’re going to listen to me. I can tell that captive audience to let’s go downtown and attend some meetings. Let’s let our voices be heard down there. When there’s an issue in a white neighborhood, you can hardly find a seat down there at City Council on Tuesday nights.
The only time we go down there is when something hits our doorstep. And then we go down there and we want to pray. Who are you praying too? Because there ain’t nobody listening to you!
Things are still happening out here. Now we’ve had enough of that. That’s propaganda as far as I’m concerned. What I’m saying, Eric, is the ministers should be held accountable. I know they get a few of the crumbs that fall under the table from wherever it comes from, but that’s not an excuse. It’s no excuse to sell your people out. We’ve had enough of that. We’ve come too far to let a few jack-legs dictate and demonize us as people. Now I’m holding them accountable.
We had a forum last summer over at South Side. The flier said, “Community Issues.” There were 12 ministers on the stage. They started going down the line giving resumes of themselves and then they went back to church. One of our great senior citizens was sitting next to me. She said “Jim, looks like you’re going to have to get up and say something.” I said, “Hey, why are we here?” Did we come here to hear another sermon? We’ve already been to church today. What about the community issues?”
There were only three preachers who gave me a legitimate answer. The rest of them said, “I’m Prophet So-n-so. I’m the Rev. Dr. So-n-so. I don’t want to hear that! We didn’t come here for that. Steven Terry gave the most legitimate reason as to why he was there. I gave him a standing ovation by myself. And, the minister down there at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, from Jamaica, Pastor Donovan Coley, pointed at me and said, “I can understand where the brother is coming from.” But the rest of them and the moderator, I said to him, we’re not going to church right now. He said, “Well, Brother Redmond, you know everything started in the church.” I’m aware of that, but we’re not there today! We came here for community issues! That’s what the flier said! So, why are you taking us back to church?” It got kind of heated there for a minute.
Then they called in the “Big-Wheel,” the one who migrated back to Tennessee and he was supposed to cool things down. It didn’t help. And the people in the audience were like sheep. If the preacher says it, it’s all right! Now that’s pathetic, that’s real pathetic.
HACKLEY: Throughout the history of Fort Wayne’s black community, the church has been the focal point. From the time period of the 1950s and 1960s, Blacks put a lot of faith in their pastors. And back in those days, perhaps the pastors were a little more committed and focused on the empowerment of black people. And perhaps they were a little more psychologically oriented to their time in history. I’m not suggesting that the pastors today are not. But my question is, are they intellectually equipped to lead us with social and political strategies; specific plans that promote black group economic thinking and actions that are implementable today, or at least in the near future?
In the Willie Lynch letter, it suggests that it might be too late to change the Slave Mentality mindset because we are generationally seasoned, conditioned and brainwashed. In fact, I believe some of us want to go back to the plantation and are looking forward to picking cotton.
REDMOND: Well they can go back without me.
HACKLEY: Recently I heard you discussing a new term that I had not heard in a long time, pulpit pimp. What is a pulpit pimp?
REDMOND: It’s a preacher who’s pimping his people. You know what a pimp is? He doesn’t work. He dresses nice at some else’s expense. He eats the best of foods while his members are on food stamps. If someone needs help from the congregation, that pimp doesn’t help them.
HACKLEY: You’re kind of grouping all the pastors together. They do have the potential to do great things here. Why in all these years have they not come together and put Fort Wayne blacks on the map for something positive and made the power structure sit back and take notice? After all, a lot of blacks go to church and there is potentially a lot of genius there ready to be showcased?
REDMOND: Well it’s like the old syndrome, “Crabs in a Barrel.” They try to outdo each other. One builds a church and another preacher builds one bigger. When they build all these big churches, they don’t employ anybody but one man and that’s the preacher. Now why are you going to spend all that money on a building and employ one person? Why can’t you build a grocery store and employ people from your congregation? Does that make sense? Therefore, that’s why I classify them as being pimps.
HACKLEY: Why is it that when you speak from the heart on what you feel is the truth like you do and most people don’t do, but when you do that, you are perceived by many as being radical, and that scares a lot of Fort Wayne blacks? Why do we become afraid?
REDMOND: Because I’m not part of the status quo. I don’t go along to get along. If the truth hurts, let it hurt. If you think all these Bible thumpers believe in telling the truth, well they can’t stand the truth. Now that’s my philosophy. That’s why I talk the way I talk. Now if anyone wants to disagree with me, they have that privilege and that right. And I have the same rights to disagree with them. But if I see nothing, I call it nothing!