REVEREND AL SHARPTON
President, National Action Network
Reverend Al Sharpton, is the President of the National Action Network (NAN), and one of America’s most-renowned civil rights leaders. Whether it was his noteworthy run for President of the United States in the Democratic Party primaries in 2004 or his use of passive resistance and non-violent civil disobedience, Reverend Sharpton has had an irrefutable impact on national politics because of his strong commitment to equality and progressive politics.
As the head of one of the most well-known civil rights organizations that currently has over thirty-eight chapters and affiliates across the United States, Reverend Al Sharpton has been applauded by both supporters and non-supporters for challenging the American political establishment to be inclusive to all people regardless of race, gender, class or beliefs. Possibly no other political figure has had a more visible year than Reverend Al Sharpton, who was invited to participate in the Academy Awards, the Tony’s, Saturday Night Live, and a variety of other venues where he quite naturally showcased his brilliance as an orator and political expert. On top of that, Reverend Al Sharpton recently secured a deal with a major radio distributor for his own nationally-syndicated news-talk program that will launch this summer across the country. He caught the eye of Rush Limbaugh who said on his own radio program that “Reverend Sharpton has the best shot of anyone at becoming the “Limbaugh of the Left” by launching a major hard news driven radio show that attracts a strong following.
Some have said that “Reverend Al Sharpton is smart, articulate, and eloquent…..and as anyone that has ever heard him talk from a pulpit can testify, Sharpton is a man with a heart and firm ideological beliefs.” “He has a command of politics that rivals some of the great New York party bosses, and no less significant, he has an understanding of the way the press works that rivals more than a few city editors” (Adam Nagourney, national political correspondent, New York Times, Dec. 1, 2002).
Ever since his surrogate father, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, told him, “you can’t set your sights on nothing little…you got to go for the whole hog,” Reverend Al Sharpton has been doing just that. He was born on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York, and began his ministry at the unusually early age of four. He preached his first sermon at that age at Washington Temple Church of God & Christ in Brooklyn where he was licensed by the legendary Bishop F. D. Washington at age nine to be a minister in that denomination. He likewise started his civil rights career very young. At age thirteen, he was appointed the Youth Director of New York’s SCLC Operation Breadbasket (founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; He was appointed by Reverends Jesse Jackson and William Jones).
At age sixteen, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement Inc. which organized young people around the country around voter registration, cultural awareness and job training programs. In 1991, Sharpton founded the National Action Network a broad based progressive civil rights organization which he still heads. From 1994 to 1998, Reverend Sharpton served as Director of the Ministers Division for the National Rainbow Push Coalition under Reverend Jesse Jackson while still serving as the head of NAN. Upon the death of Bishop Washington in the late 80’s, Reverend Sharpton became a Baptist, and in 1994, he was re-baptized as a member of the Bethany Baptist Church by Reverend William Jones. Reverend Sharpton was educated in public schools in New York and attended Brooklyn College. He was later presented with an honorary degree from A.P. Clay Bible College.
Whether it was his run for President of the United States in 2004, Mayor of New York City in 1997 or Senator in 1992, “The Rev” as he is affectionately called by his closest friends and supporters, has rejuvenated the Civil Rights movement while raising the bar for political participation for people of color. Some would say that Reverend Sharpton was always destined for greatness. Counting among his mentors are the late New York congressman and minister, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and another well known civil rights preacher, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Rev. Sharpton has emerged, according to TIME Magazine, as the most important Black leader in the city of New York. Some would argue he is the most important Black leader in America.
In his book, “AL ON AMERICA” (2003) Sharpton says that “Presidential politics has become too narrow. It has become an exclusive club for white males, of a certain income, of a certain age.” “People are living in fear and we have to break that cycle and offer them more than words.” Sharpton also authored his 1996 autobiography entitled, “GO AND TELL PHAROAH.”
Reverend Sharpton’s record speaks for itself. In 1999, when a young unarmed African immigrant was gunned down in the vestibule of his home by four New York City police officers, Sharpton led 1,200 people in the civil disobedience protest arrest. The throngs that followed him to jail in this protest included former mayors, congressman and religious and community leaders across racial, ethnic and political lines.
Reverend Sharpton’s platforms against racial profiling and police brutality has reached an international audience, and his work on human rights issues has taken him recently to Sudan, Israel, Europe, and further where he has formed alliances with international peace activists across the world. In Sudan, Sharpton visited the slave camps in a country whose religious war has left thousands of women and children at the hands of terrorist groups. In his visit to Israel and Palestine, he met with both Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Leaser Yassir Arafat calling for peace between the warring nations. Sharpton also visited Cuba, meeting with President Fidel Castro, after meeting with Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Paterson in Montego Bay.
But perhaps his most significant international visit was his sojourn to Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2001. Sharpton and three Latino elected officials from New York visited Vieques to protest the U.S. Naval bombing exercises on the island, a practice that has endured for over 60 years. After visiting with hundreds of Puerto Rican citizens who have suffered physical and mental infirmities as a result of the bombing exercises, Sharpton and the other members of the “Vieques Four” led the protest at the U.S. Naval Base in Puerto Rico. They were subsequently arrested, tried several weeks later and sentenced to forty to ninety days-Sharpton received the longest sentence-in federal prison for their protests. While Sharpton was in jail, he fasted, losing eighty pounds, and even managing to influence the local mayoral election. Because of the stand that the “Vieques Four” took that summer, President George W. Bush addressed the issue and ordered the Navy to end their exercises in 2003.
Sharpton’s stance on behalf of the disenfranchised has taken him, in his own words, “from the streets to the suites.” In 1999, in a united voice with African -American advertising agencies and marketing and media outlets, he launched the “Madison Avenue Initiative” (MAI). The Madison Avenue Initiative, a program of the National Action Network---the not-for-profit civil rights organization that Sharpton founded in 1991-----seeks to ensure those corporations and others doing business with advertising outlets around the country deal even-handedly with agencies, media outlets and publications run by people of color. Sharpton’s work with the MAI has targeted major corporations, including PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Microsoft, and others, who have subsequently extended their advertising dollars to reach more of African-American and Hispanic communities. MAI has closely scrutinized federal-government advertising contracts and is moving into cable industry regulation
Over the past decade, Reverend Sharpton’s harshest critics have become his closest allies and supporters. Those who once shunned his outspoken position on issues affecting people of color, now crowd his rallies, loudly chanting their encouragement. The pundits acrimoniously spoke of politicians who visited Sharpton’s past headquarters to “kiss the ring” of the leader who was recognized by Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the “future leader of the civil rights movement. Within a few short years he has opened almost 40 National Action Network chapters around the country.
Reverend Sharpton is a member of Bethany Baptist Church in his native Brooklyn neighborhood where the William A. Jones, Jr., is the Pastor. Reverend Jones mentored Sharpton’s civil rights career as a teenager when Sharpton was the Youth Director of Operation Breadbasket under Jones and Reverend Jesse Jackson. Both men have played a key role in Sharpton’s life since he was thirteen. Reverend Sharpton still preaches throughout the United States and abroad on most Sunday’s, and averages eighty formal sermons a year. Reverend Sharpton says his religious convictions are the basis for his life.
Rev. Al and Kathy Jordan Sharpton have two daughters, Dominique, and Ashley. Dominique is a sophomore at Temple University, and Ashley is an entering college freshman.
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Reverend Wyatt T. Walker
Biography coming soon
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Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson
The Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson was born on June 14, 1949, in Philadelphia to William and Amanda Richardson. The Richardson family, like many other African American families , was anchored in the church during the pivotal 1950's. As a youngster growing up in one of the nation's major cities, the young man who would grow to national prominence as a religious leader and activist, received his early education in the public schools of Philadelphia. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1966 and enrolled in the Community College of Philadelphia.
Rev. Richardson surrendered to God's call to ministry early in life and on May 28, 1967, he preached his first sermon at the Community Baptist Church in Philadelphia were he was issued a license to preach. After attempting to follow his dreams, Dr. Richardson came to the humbling conclusion that maybe college life was not for him when he received less than exemplary grades in his first year. However, as Rev. Richardson often times recounts. "God was not through with him yet." With the advice of his pastor and mentor, the Reverend James B. Hamlin, Dr. Richardson enrolled in Virginia Union University in Richmond and his life's path was forever changed. At Virginia Union, Rev. Richardson received close academic and moral guidance that set him on the road to life-long service and development.
While at Virginia Union, Dr. Richardson was elected president of his freshman and sophomore classes, president of the Council of Religion and he was inducted into the national service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. At the age of 19 W. Franklyn Richardson became the full-time pastor of two churches in Richmond. He served as the spiritual head of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church and St. James Baptist Church. Later he earned a B.A. degree with honors from Virginia Union and in l97l wed his college sweetheart, Inez Nunnally, who is also a Virginia Union graduate. He served as pastor of both Rising Mount Zion and St. James Baptist Churches for six years until 1974. He became Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in April of I 975. Rev. Dr. Richardson earned masters and doctorate degrees in theology from Yale University School of Divinity in New Haven, CT and the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH, respectively.
Rev. Dr. Richardson serves on the board of several corporations and national organizations and was the youngest person to serve as General Secretary of The National Baptist Convention, USA Inc. As Pastor of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, NY, Dr. Richardson leads the largest African American church in Westchester County, New York. He continues to guide and administer to the spiritual needs of Grace's more than 3,000 parishioners. Dr. Richardson has been able to succeed in this effort by developing and retaining a progressive and professional staff. At Grace, Pastor Richardson established "Windows of Grace" the church's TV ministry, which broadcasts on The Word Network and MBC in much of the country. Under his leadership, Grace Baptist Church has become involved in many community programs. The church ministers to persons in prisons, visits and ministers to the sick and shut-in, has established relationships with senior citizens, the homeless and others. Dr. Richardson has been an advocate and provider of support for persons with problems such as alcohol or drug addictions and AIDS.
In the span of Pastor Richardson's tenure, Grace Baptist Church has evolved into one of the most progressive religious centers in the nation. Rev. Richardson has instituted a congregational philosophy that recognizes the importance and historic role of women in the church and has re-emphasized the significance of stewardship within the Christian experience. Pastor Richardson has ordained several ministers and hosts of deacons, including the first female minister from the Grace family and the first female Chairperson of the Deacon ministry.
Reverend Richardson has become a renowned leader and preacher who has traveled to Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America. Despite interaction with U.S. Presidents, and heads of states he has made sure that he uses the power of the pulpit to uplift and support local issues in Mount Vernon. Throughout the past decade he has been an advocate of community empowerment and as a leader and founder of the Coalition for the Empowerment of People of African Ancestry, Rev. Richardson was able to galvanize Mount Vernon residents' to elect Westchester County's first predominately African American School Board in 1997.
Rev. Richardson has continued to be sustained and balanced by his loving family. Rev. Richardson and Mrs. Inez Richardson are the proud parents of two adult children, a daughter, Orchid Richardson-Burnside, and a son, Minister W. Franklyn Richardson, III. Dr. Richardson believes that Grace must be at the vanguard of liberation and empowerment of African American people through our Christian faith.
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