The Soulvine

By Betty Pleasant
Los Angeles Wave
August 30, 2007

Kiss St. Paul Good-Bye — Well, the majority of the 93 remaining members of the once powerhouse 100-year-old St. Paul Baptist Church voted Sunday to retain the Rev. Joel Anthony Ward has their pastor. In a meeting Sunday, the members voted 55-37 for Ward's retention. Tarshia Rodgers, the choir director whom the preacher impregnated, attended the meeting, marking the first time she's set foot in the church since obtaining a restraining order against Ward. She was there as a member to vote against Ward and to report the proceedings to you and me. This is Tarshia's report as to what happened at the meeting:

"First of all, Ward was not supposed to be in a meeting regarding himself. Not only was he in it, he conducted the entire meeting and the deacons stood by and allowed it to happen. Then he proceeded to make everyone sit in groups according to the month of their birth and had leaders of the 12 groups pass out numbered ballots. He then asked the leader of each birthday group to tell him what group of numbers they had. Seeing how no one group had more than 10 people in it, it would be very easy to determine who voted how. ... One member challenged him on this farce of a voting system and told him by doing this, people were uncomfortable about voting how they wanted because they felt he would know about it.

"So, he starts yelling at the member and told her he didn't have time for this and that you can't hide from people when you vote. He then lied and said when you vote at the polls, you get a number and the people at the polls know how you voted. He told the congregation that they had to have two-thirds majority to remove him. Ninety-three people were there, so 62 had to vote him out — the two-thirds business is a clause he changed in the original bylaws in regards to the removal of the pastor. He told people when they could start voting and the ballots were collected and tallied on a chalkboard in everyone's presence. ... He then told the congregation that if any of the 38 people [who voted against him] want to leave now they need to question themselves. Well, 10 people confirmed that they were leaving now, three of whom were long-standing deacons."

Under Ward's leadership, St. Paul has been reduced to a membership of 83 in a church that seats 1,700. For all intents and purposes, however, St. Paul has a membership of only 55 — that vast majority that voted for him Sunday. So, let's see: 55 people are strapped with a reported $8 million debt on the church, the operation of what many see as a reform school, which the students attend for free and where the teachers can't get paid, and an elderly, all-female congregation without enough men to serve communion. In light of Ward's victory, should I now follow the instructions Jesus gave his apostles in Luke 9:3-5 and go out of St. Paul and shake its dust off my feet? Naw. I'm going to stick around.

A NEW DAY — State Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas was elected chair of the Legislative Black Caucus last week, and the caucus is meeting this week to elect a secretary and treasurer. The caucus is also planning to hold a reception next month to honor its outgoing chair, Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, for his leadership. I hope the event will be held in Los Angeles so Dymally's constituents can attend and pay tribute to the assemblyman's many years of public service. Another change for Dymally is the loss of his longtime press secretary, Jasmyne Cannick, who accepted the position of press secretary to newly elected Rep. Laura Richardson, almost as soon as the ballots were counted.

THE DOMINO EFFECT — I kicked off my own 2008 election season Saturday at a fundraiser for Linda Harris-Forster, a candidate to replace Dymally in the 52nd Assembly District when he's termed out of that office, where I got my first good look at the field. First of all, Linda is the daughter of Sweet Alice Harris and is the front-runner in terms of fundraising. She has the financial support of the biggest of the state's big wigs, including my beloved sugar daddy, former Controller Steve Westly. Then I learned Harris-Forster's chief rival for the office is Compton Councilman Isadore Hall, who is heavily backed by developers, casinos and all manner of corporate and business types. Hall is despised by the other people he's expected to represent who label him the worst kind of liar. The black contractors and a labor union plan to launch a ferocious attack on Hall Thursday in front of Compton's City Hall. Then there's Gregory Akili. He's running for the 52nd AD too. Now Akili's got a problem that won't go away: He's going to have to explain to the public the pivotal role he played in the crimes that caused us to lose former City Councilman and labor leader Martin Ludlow and that led to the arrest and conviction of SEIU President Janett Humphries. Akili will present us an open wound that we can delve in to our heart's content. I look forward to this race.

THIS AND THAT — My good friend and NAACP warrior woman attorney Geraldine Green Salvani is in grave condition in the Riverside Medical Center's ICU after having lost control of her car and totaled it in an accident Aug. 22 as she and her husband, Frederick, were on the way to Palm Springs to buy a dog. Frederick is in the ICU as well, but he is in better shape that Geraldine.

Speaking of attorneys, I want to congratulate attorney Anthony Willoughby on his selection as city attorney for Lynwood, a city that is so deeply mired in a legal morass that it needs all the help a lawyer of Anthony's ability can provide. I just hope he has time to handle my business because, as you can imagine, the Soulvine needs to keep her lawyer on speed dial.

Speaking of preachers, have you heard? Pentecostal televangelist and women's empowerment lecturer Juanita Bynum was attacked early Saturday morning in the Atlanta airport hotel parking lot by her estranged husband — Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III. Isn't that something?! According to the police, the couple fought in the parking lot until a hotel bellman broke it up. Bynum, who married Weeks in a $1 million ceremony in 2002, devotes her career to counseling people on maintaining happy marriages. She told police her husband "choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her" in the parking lot. For his part, Bishop Weeks stepped into the pulpit Sunday and preached as if nothing had happened. He showed no contrition. Never apologized, but did acknowledge, however, that the devil made him do.

AND FINALLY — Why is it that all hell lands on football superstar Michael Vick for beating dogs, yet athletes who beat and even kill their wives, girlfriends, baby mamas and the like barely raise an eyebrow? Granted, beating a dog is bad. But isn't beating a woman at least equally as bad? To the fans and athletic team owners, I guess not, as the number of athletes arrested for domestic violence or spousal abuse is astounding. A 1995 study done at Northwestern University found that while male student-athletes are three percent of the population, they represent 19 percent of sexual assault perpetrators and 35 percent of domestic violence offenders. But hey, beat a dog and you're out of here. Beat a woman and play ball. That's not right.


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