Last Sunday, the Dove Awards aired on TBN and at one of the most poignant moments of the broadcast, the gospel community realized that something was awry. When Kirk Franklin graced the stage to accept his award for Gospel Artist of the Year, a portion of his acceptance speech was edited out. Franklin called again for reconciliation and prayers for the family of Fort Worth resident Atatiana Jefferson and Aaron Dean, the former Fort Worth Police Officer who killed her, now facing charges in her death. The omission in the broadcast rankled many viewers, local supporters and the gospel community at large, namely Phil Thornton, SVP of RCA Inspiration, the label Franklin records on.
Franklin’s announcement of a boycott is right out of the playbook of the civil rights movement. Not until black dollars and participation were lost, did many of these companies championing the oppressive Jim Crow laws and lifestyle realize just how much they depended on the black community they regarded as second class customers and citizens. Using the full heft of his influence, Franklin is a hometown hero-calling into accountability the long-standing practices of unconscious bias in Christian institutions like the Gospel Music Association and the world’s largest Christian television network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The Dove Awards added the speech in its entirety later last week on its YouTube channel. According the Gospel Music Association, all acceptance speeches were cut short and Franklin’s was no different. As Thornton said, the edit was not the issue, the content was. When artists at the zenith of the spectrum speak truth to power, it is then incumbent upon the hearers to respond. Whether the response is for or against action is never promised, however the onus remains. In the wake of this fallout, Franklin has decided to boycott both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the Gospel Music Association until “tangible plans are put in place to protect and champion diversity, especially where people of color have contributed their gifts, talents and finances to help build the viability of these institutions.“
The Dove Awards has done a much better job to include the black gospel community with even a new gospel worship category, this year. The Dove Awards I hasn’t shunned political action because one of their sponsors is My Faith Votes. Why was Kirk Franklin’s speech edited? It couldn’t be that it was political. I think that the call for justice falls into the category of white noise (static), bolstered by cognitive dissonance. This problem persists because we have remained in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ who have not been touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
I am aware that the word “boycott” often has a negative connotation and finality to it, but my goal will forever be reconciliation as well as accountability. It is important for those in charge to be informed; not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African-American experience. I’m not asking those in the gospel community to follow my decision. No, this is my personal choice to take a stand and hold responsible those in a position of power to acknowledge the issues in our separate communities that have existed from colonialism to Jim Crow. To many of the issues facing us today I pray that there will be a significant change from this hurtful experience. I look with anticipation for that day of healing and I’m committed to contributing to that process. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.Kirk Franklin
Read the GMA Response to Kirk Franklin’s Boycott