Vol. 10, No. 8 email@example.com www.thespiritualherald.org August 2011 © 2011 Eastern Tsalagi Publishing Co.
Music and Entertainment
January 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 1)
February 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 2)
March 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 3)
April 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 4)
May 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 5)
June 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 6)
July 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 7)
August 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 8)
September 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 9)
November 2011 (Vol. 10, No. 11)
Watson Vies for Presidency of Empire Baptist Convention
By Don Flynn
WESTBURY, NY--The Rev. William A. Watson Jr., the longtime religious and civil rights leader running for president of the Empire Baptist Missionary State Convention, wants to lift the African American clergy and their congregations by their pocketbooks.
“We’ve done the bootstrap thing, now let’s get down to business,” he told The Spiritual Herald. “We know the Bible, but it’s time we learned the economy, too.”
Such is the practical message of Watson, who is pastor of St. John’s Baptist Church in Westbury, Long Island. He is also pastor of Freewill Baptist Church in Freeport, Long Island, where he has been for the past two years.
He is a man of faith, as well as a man of business--an economic visionary who is determined for his fellow pastors to achieve a higher standard of living and, of course, worship.
Watson, twice elected Moderator of the Eastern Baptist Association embracing 246 affiliated churches with more than 100,000 members in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island and in Brooklyn and Queens, now seeks to lead the estimated 500 black Baptist churches of New York State.
The activist preacher believes that his fellow clergy must also develop a strong political acumen in order to face many of today’s social and economic problems.
“Number one, we have to learn how to stand together and elect politicians or persons that will stand for the people and help us be a part of the economic and spiritual change,” he declared.
“We need to be responsible for a lot of the things that happen that we’ve forgotten, like our children, our elderly, our economy, and the struggles of our people to maintain their homes and not become victims of bank fraud, mortgage foreclosures and other economic hocus-pocus.”
Watson wants to take on both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries for their alleged discriminatory practices against African Americans and other people of color.
“We are concerned that Pfizer would close down plants in minority areas here in America and build new plants in England and India.
“Every time they shut down a plant, they drastically increase the unemployment rate among our people,” he asserted.
If he wins the Presidency of his organization, he will join five other leaders of six New York black Baptist associations—from the Great Lakes all the way down to New York City--representing a mighty phalanx in the host of the nine million National Baptists across the nation.
The election will be held in Syracuse, NY on October 21 at a church to be selected. Other candidates are Ron Grant of Albany and William Gillison of Buffalo.
Pastor Watson’s head and heart are full of scripture, but there is room for uplifting the business know-how of the Baptist flock to share in the wealth of the state, a message uniting the Bible and the pocketbook.
“I’m running on unity and restoration,” he said in an interview, “and also on the need of our people to learn and practice economic reality. We must educate ourselves to look at our churches as caring not only for the soul but also a dignified quality of life.”
Churches, he reminded, are also businesses doing the work of The Lord. They must also function as efficiently as other businesses in order to provide a level of social services, as well as spiritual enlightenment, and to stay in step with today’s economic trends.
“I mean that the church and the organizations have lost some of their integrity, hope, and resources,” he said. “We’re going to do a lot of restoring and recovering of things that we have lost. We want to be a louder voice for the people that we serve as far as the principles that we stand on.”
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, Watson was one of seven children of William Watson, Sr., a railroad scrap yard worker and a domestic worker. As a member of the Evergreen Apostolic Faith Church of God, he “found the Lord at an early age.”
After relocating to Long Island at a young age, he studied auto mechanics at IC Lorcom High School and Manpower Development Training School in New Hyde Park, New York. He then entered and has continued successfully in the auto repair business. It is that business experience he wishes to impart to churches and to worshippers.
“Bad business in a church will ultimately lead to the demise of that particular ministry,” he explained. “I bring discipline that people don’t usually recognize, and I understand how to really operate in the business world. Preachers are discriminated against when it comes to bank loans, and many have no health insurance.”
Later, he settled in Hempstead, where he met Rev. Joseph J. Howell and joined his Faith Baptist Church in 1977. “He was a person who influenced me and helped me find my calling.” Watson adopted “a more modern style of preaching,” urging business savvy, and later established his own St. John’s Baptist Church in Westbury, where he has pastored for more than 25 years.
The church and its worshippers, he noted, are affected by the budget deficit, by special interests like the Tea Party and other political conservatives who are intent on slashing funds to the people in poor and black communities.
Watson indicated he understands the President’s political and racial struggles, but he wants the black church and other black organizations to support him. In turn, he believes that the President will become a strong advocate for their interests.
“ I don’t think Obama is afraid of the Tea Party,” Watson said. “I think he is also concerned about their rights. But that party itself because of its evil intent will actually hurt themselves more than they will hurt anyone else.”
Watson scorns what he calls “the Tea Party’s pretense of claiming a platform of Christian morality.”
“So were slave owners,” he said sarcastically. “They were committed Christians but they did not understand racial and social justice. You can be a committed Christian and not have a full understanding of what you are required to do morally. Their understanding is very limited, because basically every budget cut has been made to actually undermine the poor community.
“As Obama continues to say that nobody is listening, they are still making the same cuts. It affects the poor people more and the rich people are still getting richer. The country has accepted that.
“The Tea Party itself has embraced the racism. That is who they are. Unfortunately, there are poor black Republicans who support that agenda.”
Thus, Pastor Watson is lending his energetic voice to the black clergy to do the business of the Lord across the board to fight the anti-black policies.
“We must galvanize the black clergy preacher to realize the ways of business and the economy,” he preached. “They need to look to the economy to lift the people and the faith.”
Watson went on to assert that there is “a lack of business sense and practice” by too many of the clergy. Blacks and minorities have economic problems, he noted. “They also need to stand up to prevent the cuts in Medicaid and other entitlements. Saving Medicaid, in particular, has to be a focus to eliminate racism and heath care disparities.”
The black clergy and its people need to demand and achieve a better portion of the nation’s economic pie, he said, observing:
“There should be more resources made available for preachers and outreach to ministers, to support what we do. The resources are a key. They’re cutting back on healthcare, closing down hospitals. We’d like to see more investment in such institutions by the private sector and government.”
Watson feels that the empowerment of blacks that was launched by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has sputtered in recent years, and he wants to “refuel” the movement, which will involve some political muscle.
“Our people are suffering, and the sad part about it is that people who write and enact legislation are never affected by the legislation that they make,” he said. “People who are elected to public office are usually those who already have resources or connections.”
Most political leaders really don’t understand the anxiety and the serious needs of those who live from paycheck to paycheck. “It is the rare politician who is compassionate and understanding, and it’s this sensitivity that separates mediocre leaders from great ones.”
Watson continued: “Many politicians are only concerned with balancing the budget, not with helping their constituents. Blacks were categorized in the Constitution as being three-fifths of a man, and there are a lot of people who still see us that way. We have to constantly fight for our rights against those racists who are opposed to us.”
Watson laments that Dr. King’s dream hasn’t been fulfilled. “Every time we think we’ve gotten someplace, we see the same things happening all over again. The same racist mentality that we witnessed when Dr. King was alive still exists.”
After a struggle spanning more than 40 years, Watson is still optimistic about the future of civil rights in America. “While I continue to be concerned with better education, equal justice, the mortgage crisis and jobs, my new focus will be in healthcare. We need more entitlements and we have got to convince politicians that we need more, not less.”
Watson believes that “preachers represent the best hope for minorities because they have the direct support of the Lord, the intelligence and passion for social justice.
“I’m concerned about helping our people. All of us have the same common problems regardless of how it looks today,” he added. “We all have the same needs and when it comes down to our health and our economic situation, we all have to do some educating of ourselves in order to grow.”