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Ties with the Traditional Values Movement

A more narrowly focused group of Black conservatives comes out of the right-wing traditional values movement within the Black community. This group merits special attention. Notwithstanding the occasional secular group, it is primarily made up of Black Christian fundamentalist groups, and its followers differ significantly from Black conservative intellectuals and bureaucrats. Unlike the former, the traditional values people are part of a movement and, as such, engage in constituency-building activities. Whereas conservative Black intellectuals and political officials uniformly scoff at Afrocentrism, some of the Black fundamentalist groups adhere to strongly Afrocentric orientations. Indeed, the combination of hard-core Christian fundamentalism with Afrocentrism contains the potential for schisms within Black Christian fundamentalism and certainly with the notoriously racist elements of the white Christian fundamentalist movement as a whole.

The larger, predominantly white traditional values movement is well placed to receive more attention as the right gears up to fight the Clinton Administration's policies on abortion, AIDS, and sex education in schools. Indeed, as the right-wing Christian fundamentalist and traditional values movements continue to organize to overtake the Republican Party at the local level, and as their influence on US politics spreads, those Black Americans affiliated with the positions of the traditional values movement are positioned to garner as much attention in the 1990s as the Black conservative intellectuals did in the 1980s. This is particularly true given that the African American community, while traditionally liberal on political issues, is also traditionally conservative on social issues, such as abortion rights and homosexual rights.

Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a physician who was the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, has long been a star in the traditional values movement. Dr. Jefferson was a founder and former chairman of the National Right to Life Committee, and served three terms as the organization's president. She is currently chair of the National Right to Life Crusade. Jefferson is joined by several other lesser lights who are asserting themselves as movement spokespeople: Los Angeles school teacher Ezola Foster, Rev. Cleveland Sparrow in Washington, DC, Greg Keath in Michigan, and Rev. Edward V. Hill in Los Angeles.

Keath is the leader of two groups, Rescue Black America (RBA) and the Alliance for Family, both staunch opponents of abortion. Rescue Black America uses tactics similar to those used by anti-abortion groups such as Operation Rescue. Like Keath, Washington, DC minister Cleveland Sparrow is also adamantly opposed to abortion, but his organization, the National Coalition for Black Traditional Values (NCBTV), increasingly is targeting homosexual civil rights issues and AIDS anti-discrimination laws. Sparrow was formerly head of the Moral Majority chapter in the District of Columbia, and is gathering increasing political clout in the white conservative establishment. Sparrow aligned himself with Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Representative William Dannemeyer (R-CA) in an effort to overturn a Washington, DC, City Council ordinance that bars insurance companies from refusing coverage to people who test positive for the HIV virus.

Ezola Foster's Los Angeles-based Black Americans for Family Values (BAFV) also opposes homosexual rights and AIDS anti-discrimination laws, as well as a woman's right to abortion, AIDS education, and sex education in schools. Arguing in 1988 that the issue was whether Republicans want to send voters the message that "it is the party of the family. . .[or] the party of perverts," Foster has repeatedly supported efforts by Representative William Dannemeyer and other right-wing Republicans to get the California GOP to ban gay Republican clubs from the party.

Edward V. Hill is pastor of the 2,000-member Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles. He is a close friend of Jerry Falwell and was a member of Falwell's now-defunct Moral Majority. Hill once dismissed protesters picketing his church during a Falwell visit, saying the protesters were "Muslims, homosexuals, and abortionists."

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