HARTFORD—Challenged by a local pastor who called him a charlatan, Rev. Al Sharpton calmly pulled a $1,000 out of his jacket pocket and suggested it be used to help build a memorial for victims of violence.
“I want to be here to see a memorial for the young people that have died,” Sharpton said Saturday during a speech at Shiloh Baptist Church in Hartford. “I want the names and their stories up so children can see they don’t want to be on that wall.”
The speech was part of an anti-violence event to address the five homicides that took place in Hartford over the last two-and-a-half weeks, four of which were shootings.
The event was organized by the Concerned Pastors of Greater Hartford, but not everyone was excited to see Sharpton in Hartford.
“How dare you ask the people of Hartford to give you their money,” Pastor Marcus Mosiah Jarvis of Christ the Cornerstone Praise and Western Tavernacle yelled at Sharpton as he made his way down the center aisle of the fully-packed church. “You’re nothing but a pimp,” he continued, referencing the request made by the previous speaker that every pastor and preacher donate $100 to Sharpton’s nonprofit civil rights organization.
Sharpton, who reportedly owes more than $4 million in state and federal taxes, was quick to redirect the attention of the several-hundred person crowd to his podium.
He did so by calmly drawing $1,000 in cash from the pocket of his suit.
“Everything that you all raise will go to a memorial,” he said. “..For the lives that could have gone on to cure cancer. Lives that could have been the next President of the United States.”
He went on to preach about the value of self-worth and communal unity, addressing a mostly black crowd.
Sharpton remains a controversial figure. While continuously preaching the necessity body cameras for all police officers, federal oversight of police violence and the demilitarization of local police to audiences of Black members and allies, Sharpton has had a history of supporting political candidates, who don’t represent those interests.
Jarvis, who was about to be escorted out of the church after his comments but instead retreated to the back, criticized Sharpton for using community-building as a veil for “coming into a community where people are struggling for jobs, struggling for money, and demanding money to speak.”
But despite the charges against him, it was clear that Sharpton’s Hartford audience drew energy and motivation from his sermon. “There’s gonna be a change from now on,” and “We’re gonna take back these streets” the crowd commented as it left the church.
Before they settled into the pews, over 100 of the audience members had marched the two miles from Mt. Moriah Baptist Church to Shiloh Baptist Church in order to demonstrate their anti-violence values to their community.
“No more shooting, no more dying, no more killing, in our community,” the crowd yelled in call-and-response fashion as they marched.
Since May 16, four people have been shot to death and more than a half dozen were wounded in shootings, including a pastor. From January until May 16, there were 49 shooting victims in Hartford, according to the Hartford Police Department’scrime statistics.
Jarvis said localized efforts are an important first step toward communal change.
“We’re setting in place classes where people can come for credit repair, establishing credit, home ownership, creating a resume, how to look for a job, mock interviews… that’s how you empower people, not creating memorials.”