Dear Mayor Mike Moncrief and City of Fort Worth: I want to apologize if our protest at Bass Performance Hall last Saturday night caused some embarrassment for Fort Worth.
But it was a collision waiting to happen, and one that in good conscience I could not avoid – a collision between social activism and the public’s right to seek pleasure and entertainment. Indeed, I realize that boycotting D. L. Hughley, whose recent appearance on The Tonight Show provoked a national outcry, may have displeased many, including my own children. But I could not stand by when the Bass Hall folks booked one of the comedians who, along with rap artists and radio personalities, have decided it is OK to verbally abuse black women. It was particularly unfortunate that Hughley was booked to appear in the middle of our Juneteenth celebration, and also on a weekend when 500 to 600 Church of Christ youths and their parents were in town for a Texas State Youth gathering, for which I served as a chaperone. (Not to mention 1,200 to 1,400 people attending an Alcoholics Anonymous convention.)
Please note that I have never challenged nor encouraged others to challenge Hughley’s right or anyone else’s right to freedom of speech. But I, along with the protesting pastors, also have a free-speech right to challenge bad language and bad behavior. We have the right, as men, to defend our women from insults like those aired by Hughley. We were called “clowns” by Mr. Hughley and loudly booed and jeered by his supporters for our protest. We divided the community and drew far too much adverse television coverage surrounding this matter. Afterward, Mr. Hughley sounded somewhat contrite, but at the time of the protest we could see no option but a direct confrontation against the local entertainment establishment.
Sometimes religious leaders must rise up and defy public opinion. Vulgarity, nudity, and expressions of violence have become too common, all in the name of free speech. We have small children calling their mothers, teachers, and female classmates “bitches and whores.” If regular readers think it’s funny for me to make this criticism in the pages of a newspaper that regularly runs tawdry pictures of women in ads, realize also that the Weekly’s pages are open to someone protesting those same kinds of depictions. In my mind, it starts with people like Hughley and hip-hop rap artists. Therefore, it must end with them. They should never be allowed to spew their foul-mouth language through the airways. And even if their insults are aired, they should never be allowed to set our society’s standard of behavior. The elders and religious leaders of Fort Worth decided to draw this line in the sand.
I made my fight against Mr. Hughley personally. For the price of a ticket, as far as I am concerned, I purchased the right to exercise my freedom of speech and boo him off the stage. I had made a vow to keep silent inside Bass Hall until Mr. Hughley crossed the line in using one of the derogatory terms we have condemned, but it did not take him long to reach that point. And so I booed him and continued to boo him until he asked if I was finished. As I did so, I was accosted by one of his adoring young fans of the hip-hop generation. Had the police not intervened to escort me out, I think I might have been mobbed. I thank the Fort Worth Police Department for coming to my aid and for defending other protesters while we exercised our freedom of speech. And I call upon the conscience of our citizens to support us. However, I realize now that I was out of place in Bass Hall. This was not my crowd of people.
These were drinkers and revelers who openly defy my religion and the values I cherish, people ready to get naked and crawl upon the stage. It was enough to make me vomit. But to each his own; I only regret that we have reached a new low in our society. I was charged with criminal trespassing, and I realize I was out of bounds. But the officers told me that I am forever barred from attending another Bass Hall performance, and that seems unfair, since I am one of the original donors to the fund-raising effort for that edifice. Rest assured, however, that so long as there are folks like D.L. Hughley coming to Fort Worth to publicly demean blacks, demean women, and drag our society in the dirt, there’s a chance I might be at Bass Hall – even if it’s only outside – to tell them what I think.
Eddie Griffin can be reached at eddiegriffinbasg.blogspot.com.