It’s unusual to start a book reading with a song (“This Little Light of Mine”) and a prayer—but Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is not a usual author.
Reading from his book, “Gods, Gays and Guns: Essays on Race, Religion, and the Future of Democracy” at First Baptist Church on Centre Street on March 7, Sekou addressed the racially- and economically-varied audience on the plight of the poor, people of color, women and gays in America, and how race and poverty are intertwined.
Sekou also discussed how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of non-violent civil disobedience can still serve a purpose 40 years after the first Civil Rights movement. He explained how the push for gay civil rights is an analogous, not identical, situation to what America faced in the 1960s and how lessons from that time can be applied today.
Weaving stories from his childhood in the Arkansas Delta, being brought up by his church-going grandmother, and more recently, talking to his children about civil rights and volunteering in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, Sekou said he wants to “tell the truth of the ugliness of the American empire,” he said.
“I want to jump in the middle and have some uncomfortable conversations [about America’s] ‘post-racial society,’” Sekou said at the reading, noting that America has not moved beyond the issue of race, despite what some may think.
The hour-and-a-half reading and Q&A session also touched on the lack of a political religious left.
“The lack of a religious left is due to the collapse of the conversation,” Sekou said, explaining that while the religious right dominates the conversation, the religious left will be left trying to catch up instead of setting its own goals.
The audience was engaged, asking Sekou to elaborate and explain on nuanced point or challenging certain assertions.
Sekou said America needs to face its demons before it can move forward as a nation.
“I could be happier bringing down reality than dreaming through a falsehood,” he said.
Sekou is a minister, formerly of the Lemnuel Haynes Congregational Church in New York City. He is an activist and speaker, and has worked extensively with troubled and homeless youth.
“Gods, Gays and Guns: Essays on Race, Religion, and the Future of Democracy” is available at amazon.com and at revsekou.org.