The Man Who Would Be King

Freddy Haynes seemed a shoo-in to lead the NAACP. Then Obama's ex-pastor came to town.

On a Sunday morning not long ago, in a part of the city mostly ignored and forgotten, they gathered to honor him. The cars started streaming down Wheatland Road at daybreak, forming a long line of lights glowing in the early morning mist. The news trucks, rarely seen in this part of town outside of breaking crime stories, parked across the street at Carter High School, ready to go live.

By 8 a.m. the crowd was filing through the church's granite-floored lobby, past the picture of a black Jesus and into the massive sanctuary. The man they had come to honor, Frederick Haynes III, sat on the stage while the 250-member choir swayed and sang behind him. The chapel could comfortably seat 6,000, and today it would do just that.

As the choir faded out, Reverend Haynes rose from his seat. He was a tall man of 48, athletically built, with a carefully trimmed goatee and a receding hairline. He wore a dark pinstripe suit, a thick purple tie and cufflinks visible 10 feet away. On this morning, he could barely keep the smile from his face.

Courtesy of Friendship West Baptist Church
Freddy Haynes is part Martin Luther King Jr. and part Malcolm X: He can fill the streets with protesters at a moment's notice.
Courtesy of Friendship West Baptist Church
Freddy Haynes is part Martin Luther King Jr. and part Malcolm X: He can fill the streets with protesters at a moment's notice.
Zan Holmes, an old lion of the civil rights movement, took Haynes under his wing, teaching him how to use his church to empower the community.
Brian Harkin
Zan Holmes, an old lion of the civil rights movement, took Haynes under his wing, teaching him how to use his church to empower the community.
For all his talk of helping the poor and sheltering the homeless, he has built a lavish $32 million church in one of the poorest parts of town.
Brian Harkin
For all his talk of helping the poor and sheltering the homeless, he has built a lavish $32 million church in one of the poorest parts of town.
This was one of Jeremiah Wright's first public appearances in weeks, and he was making it solely because of his devotion to Haynes, one of his favorite disciples.
Carrie Devorah/Wenn/Newscom
This was one of Jeremiah Wright's first public appearances in weeks, and he was making it solely because of his devotion to Haynes, one of his favorite disciples.

For 25 years he had built this congregation, Friendship West Baptist Church, and this month was its anniversary. When Haynes came to the church, it was housed in a small A-frame structure and had a few hundred members. Over time, it had grown into one of the largest and most influential black churches in Dallas, if not the nation. His message of black empowerment had attracted thousands, including three of the most powerful black men in the city—District Attorney Craig Watkins, state Senator Royce West and City Councilman Dwaine Caraway—who were seated with their families on the front two rows.

For the past month, some of the biggest names in the black church had come to pay homage as part of the anniversary celebration. Two weeks ago, Al Sharpton delivered the sermon. Today, that honor went to the man who had brought out the camera crews, Jeremiah Wright, pastor to Barack Obama. At the time, Wright was perhaps the most controversial religious figure in America.

For weeks, snippets of Wright's sermons had been playing in an endless loop on cable news shows as conservative talk show hosts attempted to tether Obama's message of hope with what they saw as Wright's message of hate. In one sermon, Wright referred to the United States as the "U.S. of K.K.K.A." In another he suggested the American government had created the AIDS virus to kill off black people. Now, thanks to these comments and others, he threatened to derail Obama's candidacy.

Perhaps in deference to Obama, Wright had been laying low. This was one of his first public appearances in weeks, and he was making it solely because of his devotion to Haynes, one of his favorite disciples.

The invitation was an equally bold move for Haynes, who was on the cusp of becoming a national figure in his own right. Several weeks before, word had leaked that he was one of three finalists to lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The position would be the fulfillment of Haynes' lifelong dream to be a national civil rights leader, an opportunity for him to become a modern-day version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As someone who had taken protests to the streets and decried poverty from the pulpit, Haynes seemed like the perfect man to revitalize an organization drifting toward irrelevancy.

Yet for some, Haynes seemed too polarizing. Like his mentor Wright, Haynes preached a gospel known as black liberation theology, which held that the way to lift blacks out of the mire of poverty and imprisonment was not to rely on the noblesse oblige of the white establishment, as had been done for generations, but instead to fight it, to break it down and to build a system in its place that empowered blacks to operate on equal footing with whites.

Others saw him as a hypocrite. For all his talk of helping the poor and sheltering the homeless, he had built a lavish $32 million church in one of the poorest parts of town and stood to profit even more from a planned real estate development on land adjacent to the church. More important, it seemed he had embraced the very white power structure he so often condemned, playing a key role in the 2007 mayoral election of Tom Leppert and becoming a powerful southern sector ally for the new mayor.

But Haynes had answers for his detractors and spun those answers into reasons he should lead the NAACP. His support of Leppert, a pro-establishment candidate, proved that Haynes could work with the white business community, an essential trait for anyone who wanted to lead the civil rights organization.

His association with Jeremiah Wright was another matter. Wright had become a liability to Obama, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that to gain the nomination, Obama would have to denounce Wright or distance himself from him. Already, others were beginning to do just that.

Considering how mainstream the NAACP had become, Haynes was taking no small risk in inviting Wright to speak at his church. In fact, he seemed to relish the controversy that surrounded the man he affectionately called Daddy J. It had made him angry, the way the media had twisted his mentor's words, taking a sound bite out of context and reducing a "brilliant" man to a racist stooge. Like so many other things, it seemed a personal affront to his own blackness.

"They're trying to make a circus out of the whole thing," he said of the news trucks outside his church. "They have tried to lynch him, but the brother keeps coming back."

The rapturous crowd rose to its feet, hollering hallelujahs and waving white hankies as Wright took his place at the pulpit. He made a joke about minding his manners, and then he let it rip. He condemned as racist the criminal justice system that had put Charles Chatman, the 15th black inmate in Dallas County to be exonerated through DNA evidence since 2001, in jail for 27 years. He criticized the U.S. government for the way it ignored the plight of countries such as Darfur, Rwanda and Sudan, while it rushed to the aid of "white" countries. And those who couldn't see racism in Hurricane Katrina and Jena, Louisiana, were blind.

Yes, black people had been wronged again and again. But that wasn't the point. The key was to let Jesus into your life and to stop feeling sorry for yourself. You could do anything you wanted, he said, maybe even become the first black president of the United States. And maybe, if you were lucky, you could become pastor of "the baddest church in Dallas, Texas."

No one can say with certainty what effect Wright's sermon had that day, but by the end of the week, Wright would no longer be Obama's pastor. And by the end of the month, Haynes would no longer be the frontrunner to lead the NAACP.

Had Haynes' commitment to Wright's brand of theology—the very thing that had shaped his ministry and brought him so much success—derailed his chance to lead the nation's oldest civil rights organization?

————

Like his father and his grandfather before him, Freddy Haynes seemed destined to become a preacher. As a boy, he often stood in his grandmother's living room on Southland Road and delivered sermons while one of his younger sisters played the part of choir director. Even then he had a gift.

Although born in Dallas, he grew up in Palo Alto, California, home to Stanford University, in a progressive, mostly white, middle-class neighborhood. In the classroom, no one made an issue of the color of his skin. His first experience with racism came at the age of 7, when on a Christmas trip to visit relatives in Dallas, he and the other blacks on the bus were required to stay in their seats and eat once they crossed into Texas, while the white passengers got off to dine in restaurants. He asked his aunt why, and she wouldn't tell him. That's just the way things were in 1967.

The next year, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Haynes does not remember where he was that day, but he does recall sitting in his parents' living room watching the funeral of a man who had once preached in his grandfather's church.

When his family moved from Palo Alto to the urban angst of San Francisco in the early '70s, things started to change. One night he answered the phone to hear death threats against his father from people who thought the popular preacher was connected to the Zebra Killers, a black supremacist group that murdered 16 white people. "My eyes were starting to open up to the fact that there's something in this world that's different as far as blacks and whites," Haynes says.

At 14, Haynes' father had a stroke at the pulpit while delivering the morning announcements. Haynes was sitting in the balcony, not paying attention, when he heard the thud of his father's head as it hit the lectern. When a nurse at the hospital came and told him that his father had died, he ran to a window and thought about jumping. He felt God was punishing him for not listening in church.

For years, he says, he was lost to God and vowed he would not become a preacher. Now the man of the house, he took a job as a busboy in a downtown San Francisco steakhouse to help his mother support the family. One night, a white patron tripped him as he was walking across the dining room. Just 15, Haynes was stunned when he looked up and saw the man laughing. "Hey, Mo," the diner said to the manager, "come get your little nigger because he just wasted our dinner, and I don't appreciate that." Haynes protested, but his boss ordered him to clean up the mess. It was Haynes' first taste of unbridled racism, and the humiliation of it would never leave him.

At 18, he left San Francisco for Dallas to attend the now defunct Bishop College, a Baptist-affiliated, historically black school. Both his father and grandfather were well-known at the college, which had a strong religion department, and Haynes says he was determined to let everyone know he would not follow in their footsteps. "The first year every student has to take a religion class, and I made sure I was going to flunk that class," he says. "I was just not going to be a preacher."

He often found himself in the library, attracted to the section on black literature. He read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Howard Thurman, a Baptist preacher and civil rights leader whose writings had deeply influenced King and gave Haynes his first taste of black liberation theology. Thurman drew a parallel between the struggles of blacks (an impoverished minority oppressed by the white race) and the life of Jesus Christ (an impoverished Jew oppressed by the Romans).

That summer, Haynes met with Thurman in San Francisco. Haynes would consider it a turning point in his life. "It was right before he passed. And he said, 'Make sure you do that which makes you want to get up in the morning.' And that just kind of stuck with me, and I never forgot about that."

Back at school, Haynes no longer rebelled against the possibility that he would become a preacher. He immersed himself in black liberation theology, which at the time was causing a seismic shift in the black church. The movement had begun in the 1960s, at a time in which the place of the Christian church in the black community seemed in peril. Martin Luther King Jr. was giving way to Malcolm X. Young black preachers were leaving their traditional congregations for the Nation of Islam. For many, Christianity seemed a tool whites had used to keep blacks in check.

"I wanted to say: No! The Christian gospel is not the white man's religion," James Cone, the father of black liberation theology, recently told The New York Times. "It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free. But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness."

Cone and others reinterpreted Scripture through the eyes of their slave grandparents, holding out that God cared for blacks, because God himself was black. "It's very important because you've got a lot of white images of Christ," Cone told USA Today in a 1989 interview. "In reality, Christ was not white, not European. That's important to the psychic and to the spiritual consciousness of black people who live in a ghetto and in a white society in which their lord and savior looks just like people who victimize them."

In a series of books that would become the canon of black liberation theology, Cone called for a new breed of preachers who would speak boldly, even militantly, against the white-run power structure.

As Haynes progressed through college he felt a pull to heed this call. He began to take religion classes and to meditate about what he should do with his life. One day while reading the words of King he came across a quote in which the civil rights leader said his own calling had not been a cataclysmic event, but rather a submission to a deep-seated urge to serve humanity through the gospel ministry. Haynes said the quote liberated him because he had been waiting for a sign from God that he should preach.

Haynes began preaching on campus and quickly caught the eye of one of Reverend Zan Holmes of St. Luke United Methodist Church, one of the largest black churches in Dallas. Holmes was impressed with Haynes' gift as a preacher and took him under his wing. Holmes' church, which was deeply involved in building up the black community and speaking out against social injustice, meshed well with Haynes' vision of the kind of church he hoped to pastor.

In 1982, Haynes took over Friendship West, which then occupied a small building on Polk Road. "I didn't have a clue," he remembers. "All I knew is I had witnessed pastors' preaching, so I just thought if I preach, marry people when they want to get married, counsel, I would do all right."

What he could do decently enough, he says, was preach. But for the church to really take off, Haynes would have to find something that made it unique. So he turned back to the basics of black liberation theology. "In college, black liberation theology was more of a theory, and I readily came to appreciate and identify with it. The problem was how to practically apply it, because there were not a lot of black churches out there really doing liberation theology."

In 1987, Haynes went back home to San Francisco to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the church his father and grandfather had pastored. While there, he met Jeremiah Wright, who was giving one of the sermons. Haynes had seen Wright on PBS, talking about the unique needs of the black community and how the church must adjust to meet them. The two struck up a friendship, and Wright began to teach Haynes how he could put in practice the teachings of Thurman, Cone and King.

In 1991, they traveled to Africa together to attend a summit which sought to stimulate economic development in Africa. At the summit, the two grew closer, and eventually Haynes would begin to see Wright as an adoptive father.

With Wright as his mentor and Zan Holmes his local guide, Haynes involved Friendship West in programs designed to build up Dallas' black community from within. In the mid-'90s, he and Holmes formed a group called the African-American Pastor's Coalition, which, among other things, took over a credit union with the goal of extending small business loans to low-income minorities. The coalition also financed and built around 300 moderately priced homes in South Dallas.

But the incident that for Haynes would redefine the identity of his church came in 1995. His congregation had outgrown the church's original location and had moved to Kiest Boulevard. At the same time that Haynes was hosting a revival, three young black men were tied up, shot in the back of the head and piled on top of each other in a bathtub at the Tropicana Apartments across the street.

"I read that the next morning in the paper," Haynes says. "So we're having church, and across the street some young men are getting killed? There's something wrong with that picture."

The following Saturday, Haynes led a silent march, the male members of his church dressed in black to demonstrate their displeasure with violence that had taken hold of the neighborhood. They then conducted door-to-door surveys around the block to figure out what needs, in terms of education and social services, were not being addressed. That gave birth to a ministry called Operation Transformation.

Haynes' relationship with Wright continued to grow. They traveled the country together and co-edited a book. When Haynes wrote his first book, Soul Fitness, Wright wrote the introduction. Haynes became more outspoken and critical of racism, social injustice and politicians who advocated what he called "the status quo" of "plantation politics." His role, he believed, was to shake things up.

From the pulpit and in the press, he began skewering politicians he considered insensitive to the plight of blacks and others living in minority communities, from former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller to George W. Bush, whom he publicly condemned to hell at a church in Indianapolis in 2006. He blasted preachers who built mega-churches and then forgot the Bible's admonition to help the poor. He created ministries dedicated to fighting homelessness, drug addiction and prison recidivism. He showed up at job fairs for ex-cons and took over a black prep school in Oak Cliff and rechristened it the Frederick Douglass Academy. He organized a voter mobilization drive that included members from 200 black churches.

As word of Haynes' unique message of black empowerment and community involvement spread, his church grew from 100 members in 1985 to 7,000 members in 2001 to 12,000 members today.

"To me, Friendship West represents empowerment," says Katrina Smalls, a former member who now works for another church. "In the ministry they encourage people to go vote and to educate yourself in the political process, which is something I had never thought about doing before."

————

Today, the church sits at the top of a slow-rising hill on Wheatland Road, in a part of town Haynes' own people call the hood. In the last year alone, police have responded to a shooting at the high school across the street, a double murder at the nearby Southwind Apartments and a February rape at the same complex that ended with a mob-style beat down of the victim's attacker.

In this dreary neighborhood, defined by grubby pawnshops and dollar stores interspersed with long stretches of undeveloped land, the presence of Haynes' church is startling. A sprawling cream-colored edifice that takes up an entire block, it is capped with a roof of copper designed to evoke memories of the Egyptian pyramids. Throughout Haynes' church, there are other African symbols, and the church's own logo is a globe turned toward Africa. The idea is not just to remind Haynes' parishioners of where they came from, but also of God's promise to liberate and bless his chosen people, in the same way he freed the Hebrew slaves from their Egyptian masters. This lesson is a theme Haynes often returns to in his sermons, and it forms the bedrock of the theology to which he and Wright subscribe.

The goal, he says, is to make people proud to be black. "If anything, I am trying to uplift and set free, especially mentally, those who feel that they are not worthy of society, not worthy of being first-class citizens."

Haynes says the church is one of the largest employers in South Dallas, with 45 different ministries that offer everything from job training to financial counseling to support to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. As a businessman, Haynes presides over a multimedia empire that includes books, DVDs, a magazine and a Web site that carries his sermons to all reaches of the globe. As impressive as his church is, it is only the beginning of his ambitions. On the land south of the building, now 60 acres of weeds, Haynes envisions a sort of black Vatican City, complete with a grocery store, a retirement community and tennis courts.

Building a mega-church has left Haynes open to the criticism that he has done the very thing he once railed against: Peter Johnson, a prominent black preacher and former staff member of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said spending $32 million on a church building is a "vulgar, even sinful" investment. "If you can raise that kind of money on the backs of black people, why not sell it and give that money to the poor?" Johnson wonders.

But Haynes counters that his church is a symbol, both of what the community can become and the value of the people living in it. Already the building has drawn new development to southern Dallas such as a Target, and he says more is on the way. "When we were building the church, people would come up to me and thank me, just because it had been so long since they had seen cranes in this part of town," he says.

It is easy to be skeptical of Haynes' intentions. The cynic would see his talk of community building as a well-crafted sales pitch. His church, after all, is the owner of the land where he plans to build his urban village, and his wife, a commercial real estate agent, has already listed the planned retail space there for sale. Every week, Haynes' deacons pass around the collection bucket, often with a not-so-subtle nudge from Haynes, reminding them of the village they all want to build together.

Tithing is made easier by Haynes' captivating, even mesmerizing pulpit presence. He hops around the stage, drenched in sweat, his voice rising and falling as he sprinkles Scripture with well-known gospel lyrics, at times adopting a sort of hip-hop cadence. In his finely tailored suits, he seems a man with a larger-than-life personality, imposing and unapproachable.

But friends say that away from the pulpit, he is just the opposite—shy, introverted, more likely to sit and listen than to dominate a conversation, a man whose idea of a good time is to bake cookies with his 15-year-old daughter.

In many ways, Haynes is a throwback to the role traditionally held by black ministers. He is part political activist and part community organizer, after the order of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In December, he took 10 busloads of people from Dallas to join Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for a march in Jena, Louisiana, where tension between blacks and whites had bubbled over in a series of racial incidents that resulted in violence. In January, he stood on the steps of Arlington City Hall, a member of his congregation beside him, demanding that the city pay for her garage door, which had been defaced with the words "Die Nigger."

Today, Friendship West hews as closely to black liberation theology as any church in America. In so doing, the church is going against the grain. "Historically, the black church was the only place African-Americans could go to speak their minds, to hear a word that would comfort the racism and injustice that was haunting them, and there's been a total shift away from that," says Stacey Floyd-Thomas, director of black church studies at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School. "Friendship West represents the best of the black church tradition. It is a village, a community and a place where black people who have been oppressed and ignored and treated as less-than are affirmed and celebrated."

His congregation has felt that affirmation as Haynes has quietly built a base of power at Friendship West. Three years ago, he led a drive to kill Laura Miller's strong mayor referendum, which Haynes considered racist, mobilizing blacks in southern Dallas to vote in record numbers. The next day, May 9, 2005, at Friendship West, a 71-year-old man who had lived in Dallas his entire life told The Dallas Morning News he had never seen anything like it. "Black people are finally going to realize how much power they have," he said, fighting back tears. "In future years, when we win more elections, we're going to remember [this] day."

And yet for all his sermonizing about white oppression, Haynes seems something of a contradiction, recently aligning himself with the same white power structure in Dallas that he preaches against. Last spring, he became the first prominent black minister to support Leppert, a Turner Construction chief executive with no political experience, in his bid for mayor. Haynes also opened up Friendship West to a well-attended mayoral debate, a departure from a previous promise to make his pulpit off-limits to political candidates.

To some, it seemed Haynes had done an about face, opting for Leppert over the only black in the race, former city Councilman Don Hill. How could he support a man who had the backing of the Dallas Citizen's Council, a secretive organization that once fought the NAACP over allowing blacks and whites to ride together on the bumper cars at the Texas State Fair?

Haynes' endorsement of Leppert, which played out in radio advertisements that ran in heavy rotation on the city's hip-hop and gospel stations, proved pivotal, and Leppert carried the black vote on his way to taking the race in a rout. The relationship did not end after the election. Leppert still shows up at Haynes' church, often when the mayor needs help, as he did last fall when he needed votes to defeat the Trinity River referendum.

"It's an illicit relationship, and it's not a healthy relationship for people of color or low-income people," Johnson says. "They've allowed the good old boy structure to come back...Freddy Haynes is part of that inner circle now. He's a gatekeeper for the rest of the black community."

But Haynes says his critics are missing the point. "I never asked [Leppert] for anything in exchange for my support," he says. "My only request was that he be true to his vision for an economic balance in the city and work with us to help lift up this side of town."

His association with Leppert also gives Haynes' message a broader appeal, one that incorporates the spiritual needs of a burgeoning black middle class that must work within the established order as it attempts to change it. Much of his church's recent growth has been fueled by the growth of this group, which has moved into suburbs as far north as Allen, McKinney and Denton. Like the white mega-churches that began springing up in the '80s, churches like Friendship West have become a spiritual home to blacks who have left their traditional communities, or to those who feel the black church has abandoned its true message. "There is a rootlessness that I think people in the suburbs feel, and that's why they make the drive, because there's a sense of connection that I think everyone wants to feel," Haynes says.

Several prominent members of Friendship West say they were attracted to the church for precisely these reasons. Dwaine Caraway, who has belonged to the church for 10 years, said his work tearing down hot-sheet motels and crack houses as a city council member has been inspired by Haynes' message of social activism and community involvement.

District Attorney Craig Watkins, who was baptized a member two years ago, says his much-publicized effort to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates, the majority of whom have been black, was inspired by Haynes. "I think he's given me the courage to do what I know is my duty, in the face of tremendous opposition."

————

On May 25, Freddy Haynes returned to the pulpit after a brief absence. The time away had not been good to him or his mentor. At two public appearances immediately following his sermon at Friendship West, one before the NAACP in Washington, D.C., and the other before the National Press Club, Wright appeared defiant and repeated several assertions—among them, how the government created AIDS to kill blacks—that had made him a lightning rod in the first place.

"His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate," Obama said at an April 29 press conference. "They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs."

Obama's disavowal of Wright stung Haynes. The Illinois senator had met privately with Haynes, seeking his counsel, when he was still mulling a presidential bid. And when Obama later came to Dallas for a February rally, Haynes gave the opening prayer, asking God to protect Obama from all the "haters."

But Haynes' ultimate allegiance was to Wright and what they both stood for.

"A lot of you are mad at Daddy J for what went down on Monday," Haynes told his congregation on May 3, the Sunday following Wright's speech before the National Press Club. "And I'm sorry, I know y'all ticked off at him, but he was a cornered lion... And when a lion's got cornered and they're already wounded, THEY DON'T BACK DOWN!" he shouted.

All Wright was trying to do, Haynes explained, was to educate the nation about the black church. "And then they talk about how he didn't tell the truth about AIDS, how it got here," he said. "Well, you know, I don't know about all that. I do know that if he didn't tell the truth about it, it's understandable. It ain't like the government ain't capable."

His congregation erupted in cheers.

Had Haynes' close relationship with Wright hurt his chances to lead the NAACP? On May 16, he had gone to Baltimore and fully expected to come back to Dallas as the organization's new president. For two months, he had been told that he was the sole candidate for the job, and that the vetting of the two other finalists was a mere formality. And then something happened.

In Baltimore, he sat before the NAACP's 64-member governing body and immediately the questions began. Would he leave his church? No, he said. That was something that had been discussed in the previous interview. Besides, he wouldn't be the first full-time pastor to lead the organization.

"It was like I was being attacked," he would later say. "I told them, 'I'm not your enemy. I never lost you a contract. I never closed a door in your face.'" The NAACP board deliberated for eight hours behind closed doors. In the end, they went with Benjamin Jealous, a 35-year-old Columbia University grad and Rhodes Scholar. According to several news accounts, no one clapped or celebrated when the tally was announced. Many left the room in disbelief that Haynes had not been selected.

Not long after, on blogs across the country, supporters of Haynes expressed their disappointment with the decision. Some wondered if NAACP chairman Julian Bond's alleged support of Hillary Clinton had been a factor. Others wondered if Haynes was too polarizing a figure for the organization at a time in which it seemed a great possibility the United States would elect its first black president. Heber Brown III, a black liberation preacher in Baltimore, wondered on his blog, Faith in Action, if Haynes' ties with Wright had been a problem for the board.

"It's no secret that Haynes is a protégé of Wright and is doing a fantastic job continuing in the Black Liberation Theology tradition," Brown wrote.

Had Haynes' relationship with Wright done him in? At a press conference at his church the day after the decision was announced, Haynes said he didn't think it was a factor. "That is grapevine gossip," he said. "Reverend Wright said, 'Don't let them make me an issue.'"

Haynes was told that the only reason he had not been selected was because he refused to leave Friendship West. While possible, this seems unlikely. The board had known about his commitment to the church for months. The only thing that had changed between then and now was his defense of Wright and Obama's repudiation of him.

But a week after the announcement, when Haynes was again asked if his relationship with Wright might have influenced the organization's decision, he said he had heard that and considered it a possibility.

But now standing at his pulpit, at what was supposed to be a triumphant return, he said he had no regrets. He had put the NAACP in the rearview mirror, and he suggested his congregants do the same. After the sermon, a long line of parishioners snaked around the stage, waiting to embrace their beloved preacher. He picked up a small girl and let her hug him. He looked intently at a middle-aged woman as she told him some personal problem.

He had been denied, his mentor disgraced, but his work would continue. The groundbreaking for the second phase of his urban village was around the corner, he was about to announce an ambitious new plan to help the people living in a dilapidated apartment complex down the street, and before long he intended to transform his Oak Cliff school into an academic powerhouse for black children. God was not done with him yet.

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...