Singer Donnie McClurkin was to hit the stage Saturday night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Washington Post reports, but Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D)—after several gay-rights activists complained to him—allegedly asked the Grammy-winning singer to not perform. McClurkin did not attend.
A spokeswoman for Gray characterized the decision differently: “The Arts and Humanities Commission and Donnie McClurkin’s management decided that it would be best for him to withdraw because the purpose of the event is to bring people together,” said Doxie McCoy. “Mayor Gray said the purpose of the event is to promote peace and harmony. That is what King was all about.”
McClurkin disputes that account, the Post reports, and says he was “asked not to attend” the concert. In a lengthy video statement posted online Saturday, McClurkin said Gray “uninvited me from a concert that I was supposed to headline.”
“It’s bullying, it’s discrimination, it’s intolerance, and it’s depriving someone of his civil rights,” McClurkin said in the video, adding that “there should be freedom of speech as long as it’s done in love.”
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In 2002, McClurkin wrote on a Christian Web site that he struggled with homosexuality after he was molested by male relatives when he was 8 and 13. “I’ve been through this and have experienced God’s power to change my lifestyle,” he wrote. “I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too.”
Phil Pannell, a local gay rights activist and civil rights advocate, said he raised objections with the mayor’s office Friday because he thinks McClurkin’s comments on homosexuality have not been in the spirit of the “beloved community” about which King spoke.
“I take no joy that he is not performing,” Pannell said. “I really admire Donnie McClurkin’s artistry, but this is a situation where a political polemic obscured his artistry.”
But Nolan Williams, the concert’s director, said he would have preferred McClurkin to have performed.
“Even in Tiananmen Square, they were singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ The fight for human rights is a global fight that has to bring us together,” Williams said. “That has to bring us together whenever there are differences of opinions or differences in views. We still need to find a place to come together even when we don’t agree.”