Beginning a difficult conversation

Archdiocese of Detroit Black Catholic Ministries coordinator Leon Dixon, Dr. Alveda King and the Rev. Walter Hoye discuss abortion in the black community during a roundtable discussion at St. Cecilia Church at St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Detroit.

Black faith leaders meet in Detroit to discuss abortion

Detroit — Leaders in the black Catholic and Protestant communities gathered April 22 to discuss something difficult to discuss in the black community: abortion.

The Office of Black Catholic Ministries hosted Dr. Alveda King, Rev. Walter Hoye, Catholic evangelist Richard Lane and Rev. Sylvester Bland in: “Let’s Talk Abortion in The Black Community,” a panel discussion on the under-reported problem of abortion in the black community and what needs to be done to address it.

“Is it free will, if you’re being programmed to think this way,” said Leon Dixon, coordinator of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Detroit, who hosted the panel discussion. “Planned Parenthood is hosting pizza parties and rap sessions. You know what demographics they’re going after.”

The panelists discussed the disproportionate amount of abortions that happen in the African-American community, primarily in cities such as Detroit.

“Black Americans are responsible for 28 percent of all abortions in the United States, and black Americans only make up 12 to 13 percent of the population,” Rev. Hoye said. “Considering what is ‘child-rearing age,’ 14 to 45 years old, that’s 3 to 4 percent of the population, being responsible for 28 percent of the abortions in this country. For my neighborhood, that’s genocide.”

The panel discussed their personal journeys into the pro-life movement, and how abortion’s acceptance has been engrained in many aspects of African-American culture, leading to many people in the community not thinking about or questioning the morality of abortion.

“My personal pro-life ministry began in 2006, after in 2003 Cardinal Raymond Burke, archbishop of St. Louis, started to take on embryonic stem cell research,” said Lane, who at the time was standing on St. Louis street corners, telling people about the Church.

“At the time, I didn’t know Planned Parenthood was an oxymoron,” Lane continued. “I thought, ‘If you get a girl pregnant, just go to Planned Parenthood.’ Then I began to understand, looking at our nation’s history, the government wasn’t always honest. From Margaret Sanger to the Tuskegee Experiment, there has been a significant effort to eradicate black people.”

Rev. Hoye offered a more personal experience that got him involved in the pro-life movement, discussing holding his premature-born baby in the palm of his hand.

“All I used to see were the tubes and devices stick out of him. But then I got to hold him, and for the first time, I beheld my son. I saw him for real that first time. And holding my son in the palm of my hand, I thought, ‘God says this, is supposed to be inside a woman. At that point, I couldn’t support anyone or any organization that supports abortion.”

Dr. King, a pastoral associate for Priests for Life and the niece of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said many people in the black community shame black pro-life advocates such as herself because they see abortion as necessary for the wellbeing of the black community.

“I’ve been told all the time, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself, you’re the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and you’re pro-life, you don’t stand with Planned Parenthood,’” said King, who said while Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife accepted an award from the organization, he himself never supported abortion.

“My uncle said, ‘The negro can’t win if he’s willing to sacrifice the future for short-term gain,’” King said. “People bring up that I had an abortion. But I know where my redeemer lives. I read of St. Paul, who killed Christians. That St. Peter denied Jesus. We are called to be forgiven and to speak out against the evil we once did.”

The discussion then evolved into what abortion is doing to the future of the black community in America, specifically, the disconnect which exists between generations and the lack of respect for life.

“We need to look at why would someone want an abortion, because there is a lack of respect for life,” Lane said. “When that respect is not there, you lose respect for others, then you lose respect for yourself.”

The panel discussed what is the next step for the black community: resources and advocacy, highlighting groups like the Image of God Crisis Pregnancy Center at St. Charles Lwanga’s St. Cecilia site.

“With this crisis (abortion), we’re losing a whole generation of black people,” Dixon said. “This conversation needs to continue to everyone talking about quality of life after birth. We keep hearing, ‘We need to talk about race in the justice system, in unemployment, in lack of opportunities,’ and we do. But how much more racial can you get than this issue? We’re talking about the future of the black  community in America.”