Backers of the Rev. Willie F. Wilson rallied yesterday to support the nomination of the Rev. Willie F. Wilson to the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia.
Repeatedly, speakers and protesters denounced three white D.C. Council members who called Wilson "racially divisive," saying those council members were actually the ones dividing the community.
About 150 Wilson supporters stood for nearly an hour outside One Judiciary Square, where the offices of the mayor and D.C. Council are located, and listened to religious and community leaders call Wilson "a man of principle, God and the community," and encourage those in attendance to remember at the polls those who opposed him.
"We talk about diversity in this city. Well, let's have it!" said D.C. Council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8).
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) nominated Wilson, the 26-year pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, in Anacostia, to fill one of the vacancies on the UDC board. Last week, D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) postponed a vote when it became clear the majority of the education committee, which he chairs, had problems with the nomination.
Williams has said he will not withdraw Wilson's nomination. He also said he expects all of his nominees to city boards to "uphold the principles of my administration; chief among them are inclusiveness and harmony."
Walter E. Fauntroy, civil rights activist and former D.C. delegate in the U.S. House, told demonstrators, "The same rhetoric used on Rev. Willie Wilson was used on Martin Luther King."
Referring to Wilson's opponents on the council, Fauntroy said: "We will remember the next time we see a ballot with your name on it in any election in this city. We're going to put the rollers under you and scoot you out of office."
Council members Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) were targeted specifically yesterday as Wilson's opponents.
At a hearing on the nomination, Schwartz said that Wilson occasionally used racially charged language and that she wondered whether he would be a divisive figure on the UDC panel.
Ambrose raised questions about whether Wilson or his church owns any of the run-down properties near Union Temple. And Patterson said she believes there are more qualified candidates for the board seat.
Reached at home last night, Ambrose said her only concern is to make sure none of the rundown property surrounding Union Temple Baptist Church belongs to the church or to Wilson. She said Wilson has supplied her with some tax receipts but she is waiting for a report from a city office.
"I need more information about what the church has done to help stabilize the community. If you have a church with a congregation of 7,500 sitting in a neighborhood that needs outreach, I want to know what that church has done."
Yesterday, Jeffrey Clarke, son of the late D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke, recalled going to Union Temple Baptist church after his father died and receiving "a warm welcome." Clarke, who is white, said Wilson "has helped an entire city, but especially Anacostia. He could help UDC."
Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr. of Imani Temple, elicited "amens" from the crowd, saying: "There was no divisiveness until they decided to divide us! As far as we are concerned, he is not a problem for us. He is a problem for them!"
Anise Jenkins, cheered in agreement. "We can't erase the fact that those opposing are white and Rev. Wilson is a black activist in the black community," said Jenkins, who said she is not a member of Union Temple but attends often. "They are not being responsible or sensitive. They are creating an unnecessary situation. There is nothing that disqualifies this man from serving."