An Evening with Reverend Al Sharpton

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to appear as a guest on Cathy Hughes’ cable show “Sharp Talk with Rev. Al Sharpton” on TV One. The new half-hour talk show hosted by Rev. Sharpton takes place in Levels barbershop in Brooklyn, where the good reverend talks issues in the time-honored tradition of talking issues, politics and culture in African American barbershops.

I finally got a chance to be the villain on TV. For some reason, I always thought it was more fun to be a bad guy in the movies than the hero. You knew you were going to get it in the end but that doesn’t matter to me. After fourteen years of representing urban gun owners as the Black Man With A Gun in politics and social endeavors, being used in commercials, radio, and documentaries I got a chance to be seen and heard by a new audience.

I created a firearms training business that went bust. I altruistically thought I could be a resource for security businesses and private citizens that didn’t want to go to the local “bubba” to qualify their employees, or to make educated purchases. I got rejected like a basketball heading for the rim. I got a second dose of “hate” after my book was published. African American bookstores refused to sell it. There is nothing like rejection to build your character. More on that later– (the joys of self publishing and why I am still a proponent of it).

I was a federal law enforcement officer and trainer of intelligence types when I started in 1992. I moved from the range to being in front of a microphone talking from the viewpoint of a highly trained African American firearms expert and successful (I haven’t died) counter terrorist agent. I have been involved in public testimonies, lobbying, persuading, preaching, and evangelizing about the need for equality in the right to keep and bear arms struggle ever since across the country. Gun control is bigger than us. The argument has been going on since the invention of gunpowder. I used the race and politics angle as a “BLACK MAN” because it gave me a niche in an often homogeneous debate.

The subject of the show was Gun Control in Black America. It’s a part I was born to play. I liked being the bad guy this time. The show is set to air as soon as it makes it from the editing room some time in February or sooner in 2007. Hopefully, I don’t look too foolish with what is left afterwards. I gave them two hours of material for a thirty minute show.

I caught the plane to NYC’s JFK airport where a limo was waiting for me. Well, on that alone I was grateful. There had been fog, the plane was delayed, and I was having second thoughts the whole time. I rode through Queens, NY in the back of a Lincoln town car with a window that wouldn’t roll up at first.

A few hours in the hotel and I was picked up and during NY rush hour, driven to Brooklyn –like a wounded bat out of hell. The ride down Atlantic Avenue wasn’t scenic. The set of the show is in a former barbershop turned studio, next to a Karate studio and some really decrepit buildings in the ‘hood of Flatbush. There was a platoon-size number of troops around the block setting up lighting, providing security, and doing Hollywood stuff. Two RV’s acted as lounges and make-up staging areas in front of the place. It was impressive. Most of which you couldn’t see from just driving by.

After about an hour, the Reverend arrived and folks sprang into action with the makeup and stage prep. Knowing I was the antagonist in this opera was exciting. The bad part was I wasn’t ready for Rev. Al.

He started off cordially but quickly started his premise on fiction. To him and many of people in earshot, “the firearms industry was the source of illegal guns in the Black community.” To this panel, Liz, from Mothers against Guns/NY, and Marcus, AKA “DirtySeven” the rapper, the NRA was satanic. Most had never even heard of Eddie Eagle, a program for child safety education.

I got beat up pretty well because I had to answer or deflect questions that were posed wrong before I could provide truth. It made me seem ambiguous. Questions like “do you still beat your dog?” for example cannot be answered with a “yes or no” and have you held in high esteem. You have to restate the question and change the thing. I did that for the first few minutes but not very well.

On the second wave I had to defend the NRA, which I didn’t do for my own credibility sake. It didn’t come out smooth however; as I wanted but did do a better job near the end of the dialogue to explain myself. It was a three against one fight.

Gun control is an issue that has affected Black America before America was officially formed. Since 1640 AD, the effects of racism, the law and the lack of education about firearms have been our demise. As a race, I think we accept defeat too easily. We want to shift the responsibility on someone else. We as a whole prefer to blame some force greater than us for the murders of our children, babies and sons than on the people that hate themselves, have no respect for life or are void of responsibility. That was my first point. It didn’t go over well. I ended up looking like a sanctimonious Black republican.

I eventually caught my second wind and became comfortable in the fight. I started to interrupt and comment more frequently, instead of waiting to respond to crazy comments. By the end of the talk, I noticed that the barbers in the background were totally into my responses and no hair was being cut.

There is a hunger for knowledge in NYC that showed me that anyone knowledgeable about personal protection, firearm safety and education has a ripe audience in the Big Apple. The problem is getting to them. You won’t make any money on the deal but you will do some good.

With this crowd, and I mean crowd, I said some stuff that wasn’t as positive, or polished as I know I could have but I wanted to show that I cared, and wasn’t a “tool” of the NRA, so there are a few quotes I am sure they will keep in the show that looks like I agree Rev. Al.

I left happy after the 2 hour attack because of how it ended. The fifty or so people that were behind the scenes of a movie production like this practically clapped and gave me the thumbs up when it was over. I have caused them to question what they know. They wanted to learn more about their rights. My adversaries, Rev. Sharpton took off promptly to speak somewhere but the other two exchanged numbers with me (Mothers against Guns of NY) and a rapper from Brooklyn agreed to stay in touch.

We’ll just have to see what and where this goes. The struggle continues…

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