By Pete Stidman
In a meeting last week that was insulated from
the lenses of TV cameras and newspaper reporters,
former State Senator Dianne Wilkerson lashed out at
several ministers affiliated with the Black
Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston and the
Boston Ten-Point Coalition, essentially accusing
them of conspiring to remove her from office.
According to several individuals who were among
the 50 or more people at the Dec. 17 meeting in the
Eliot Congregational Church of Roxbury, Wilkerson
encouraged former constituents to come together to
push for a list of her former "legislative
priorities." She encouraged them to work with her
successor, Sonia Chang-Diaz, to make that
But she also pointed a finger at the Black
Ministerial Alliance (BMA) and the Boston Ten-Point
Coalition. She described them as usurpers of the
community's right to pursue those legislative goals
and accused certain ministers of collaborating with
the FBI to bring about her downfall, according to
several sources who heard her speak.
Wilkerson cited as proof of a conspiracy, the
sources said, rumors of an impending FBI raid on
her office that she said were circulated by a
particular pastor from one of the organizations in
February 2006, three months after her vote against
a constitutional ban on gay marriage the previous
November, a vote that many ministers opposed. No
such raid took place in 2006.
In addition, several of those present said
Wilkerson claimed that a particular pastor, unnamed
by Reporter sources, pressured her to resign at a
meeting at Charles Street A.M.E. Church on Oct. 31
with the threat that if she did not resign that day
- with legions of the Boston press corps awaiting
announcement in the next room - the BMA would
lose funding that was included in several line
items in the state budget.
When contacted by the Reporter, confidants of
Wilkerson offered a slightly different version of
that statement, saying that five ministers who met
with Sen. President Theresa Murray pressed for some
legislative priorities from Wilkerson's list and
"They had some type of deal set up between some
ministers and certain people up at the State
House," said Bob Marshall, a Wilkerson supporter
who attended the Dec. 17 meeting and said he has
listened to "many" conversations with Wilkerson on
the topic. "The ministers had been promised
something by someone at the State House. They had a
timetable, and Dianne upset their timetable."
In a compromise, Wilkerson conceded her
re-election bid that Friday afternoon (Oct. 31),
and promised to announce her resignation as soon as
Pastor Bruce Wall, a Dorchester minister who is
not currently affiliated with either ministerial
organization, also heard the charges leveled by
Wilkerson last week.
"This kind of stuff creates distraction," said
Wall, who was at the meeting to "gather
information." "I have never seen such anger and
rage as in that room. The perception was that the
black pastors were selling the senator down the
river for grant money."
"What?" responded Ten-Point Coalition director
Rev. Jeffrey Brown when asked if any such funding
threat was made. "That's a lie. Let me say this:
Any allegations that the ministers were going to
lose money is flat-out false. Who would even say
something like that? That's just a lie or a figment
of someone's wild imagination."
Rev. Gregory Groover, who ministers at the
Charles Street A.M.E. and was also at the meeting,
said he did not recall any statement of the kind
being made. "There were some concerns that were
expressed at [an internal] BMA meeting,
that the allegations made against Wilkerson could
sort of cloud the way for immediate resources that
the community needed
but that was never
mentioned in the meeting with Wilkerson."
Brown was similarly incredulous with respect to
the accusation that the ministers were involved in
the FBI probe. "I can tell you unequivocally that
no minister of the BMA, in particular the
leadership, knew of any investigation that was
going on by the FBI or any other Federal alphabet,
the ATF or whatever, of Dianne Wilkerson. Anyone
that would conjecture that is grasping at straws,"
said Brown. "And if the senator said that, it is a
Organizers of the assembly worked hard to keep
Wilkerson's claims against the ministers out of the
media. Amir "MC Spice" Shakir, a local radio
personality and a public supporter of Senator-elect
Sonia Chang-Diaz, was told the press was not
allowed in the meeting. He was allowed to stay only
when he said he wasn't there as a journalist.
A flier promoting the meeting listed the
organizers as "Concerned Citizens of Roxbury" and
carried headlines such as "Stop the assault on
black leadership" and "What is the role of certain
black ministers in this story?"
Calls to Wilkerson's cell phone seeking comment
this week went unanswered.
Wilkerson and the BMA have had their
disagreements in the past, particularly over the
gay marriage issue. In 2006, Bishop Gilbert
Thompson, leader of the Jubilee Christian Church on
Blue Hill Avenue and president of the BMA, said
Wilkerson was following "a radical sexual agenda
that will destroy the family as it now exists,"
according to the Boston Phoenix. At the time,
rumors circulated that the ministers were searching
for a candidate to run against Wilkerson.
Nevertheless, Brown said, Wilkerson and the
ministers frequently collaborated before she was
charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes in
exchange for legislative favors earlier this
"You had ministers who continued to support
Wilkerson through all the ups and downs she's had,"
he said. "There wasn't any open animosity. We
disagreed on the open marriage issue, but there
wasn't any rancor there."
Others say there is a growing resentment against
the powerful ministers in the community.
"I've been to at least three different community
meetings where there was an impromptu discussion
about the ministers and Dianne, or the ministers
and the ballot question around decriminalizing
marijuana," said Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, a
Roxbury political consultant. "Many were most upset
by the actions the ministers took against Dianne
before she had her day in court and wondered why
the rush to publicly ask for her resignation before
the election... calling it just plain wrong."
For their social programming, both the BMA and
Ten-Point Coalition are regular recipients of money
that flows through state government from federal
block grants. How the funds are spent can be guided
by legislation and influenced by legislators
informally, but ultimately they are allocated by
departments in the governor's administration. An
example is the Department of Public Health's
Prevention of Youth Violence grants, from which the
BMA received $105,000 out of $1.6 million
distributed by the state in 2007.
As an outcome of Wilkerson's allegations, Shakir
is calling on the BMA and Ten-Point to hold a
public meeting next Monday (Dec. 29) to explain
their side of the story. Neither party has
responded to the call as of yet.
"I believe that black clergy and civic leaders
need to come together and I'm praying for peaceful
resolve," said Rev. William Dickerson of Greater
Love Tabernacle Church, who was also at the Dec. 17
session. "We must move forward toward healing
because too much finger pointing is going on."
Reporter correspondent Gintautas Dumcius
contributed to this report.
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