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Black Musicians Are Standing Behind Kirk Franklin's Boycott Of Evangelical TV Network

Kirk Franklin's reflections on police violence were cut from Trinity Broadcasting Network's broadcast of his Dove Awards acceptance speech.

Christian musician Kirk Franklin has announced a boycott of the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards and the conservative Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network after his reflections on police violence against Black Americans were cut from the award show’s broadcast for the second time.

Franklin, a prominent Grammy-winning gospel musician, accused the GMA and TBN of editing out comments about police violence he made during acceptance speeches in 2016 and 2019. Franklin said he won’t be participating in any events affiliated with the Dove Awards, GMA or TBN “until tangible plans are put into place to protect and champion diversity.”

“It is important for those in charge to be informed. Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African-American experience,” Franklin said in an Instagram video published Monday. 

The artist said that the boycott was a “personal choice” and that he’s not asking others in the Christian gospel community to join. Still, several Black Christian musicians expressed their support for the move online.

Lecrae, a Grammy- and Dove-Award-winning rapper, has criticized white Christians in the past for failing to stand up for Black lives. He wrote on Franklin’s Instagram, “I only came cause you came. You know I’m out. ✊🏾.” 

Jonathan McReynolds, a gospel artist and Dove Award winner, wrote, “You know the rules of church: we don’t let nobody shout by themselves. #Present.”  

Musicians Travis Malloy, PJ Morton and Jonathan Nelson also expressed support for Franklin.

HuffPost has reached out to these artists for clarification on whether they are participating in Franklin’s boycott of the Dove Awards, the GMA and TBN.

A spokesperson for the gospel singer and Dove Award winner Marvin Sapp confirmed to HuffPost that he is joining the boycott. 

Kirk Franklin performs during the 50th Annual GMA Dove Awards at Lipscomb University on October 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenne
Kirk Franklin performs during the 50th Annual GMA Dove Awards at Lipscomb University on October 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Dove Awards, considered the Grammys of the Christian music industry, are often broadcasted on TBN, which is billed as the world’s largest Christian television network.

In his Instagram video, Franklin said that his concerns about TBN and the GMA stem back to 2016, when he received a Dove Award for Gospel Artist of the Year. He said he felt it was his responsibility as a Christian of color to address the “civil unrest” that was “plaguing” the country at that time, prompted by the killings of Philando Castile, Walter Scott by white police officers, and the killings of five Dallas police officers by a Black gunman. During his acceptance speech, Franklin said he asked the audience to join him in prayers for the families affected by those tragedies.

However, when the award show aired on TBN, that part of Franklin’s speech was edited out.

“I made my disappointment and frustration known to the Dove Awards committee and to the Trinity Broadcasting Network,” Franklin said. “I never heard from TBN, and the Dove Awards committee promised to rectify the mistake so that it wouldn’t happen again.”

But “history repeated itself” in 2019, Franklin said. 

At this year’s Dove Awards, which took place in Nashville on Oct. 15, Franklin referred to the killing of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman who was shot in her own home by a Texas police officer earlier this month. Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew witnessed the shooting. 

That part of Franklin’s acceptance speech was again edited out when the award show aired on Oct. 20 on TBN.

Kirk Franklin, winner of Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, answers questions at the 50th Annual GMA Dove Awards
Kirk Franklin, winner of Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, answers questions at the 50th Annual GMA Dove Awards on October 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jackie Patillo, the GMA’s president, issued a statement apologizing for what she called a “completely unintentional” misstep. She blamed the edit on the fact that the GMA had to cut the award show down to two hours.

“We accept the responsibility of our error,” Patillo wrote. The edit “left a general perception that we are not concerned with key social issues that affect people of color. It is not our intent to disregard or silence any of our artists, and we are deeply saddened by this perception and are committed to change this.”

Patillo said that the GMA has met with Franklin to “discuss solutions,” which will be announced at a later time. TBN has also made the unedited version of Franklin’s speech available through its video on demand platform.

TBN has not responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Some of President Donald Trump’s closest evangelical Christian allies have hosted shows or appeared on TBN ― including Paula White, Robert Jeffress and Jentezen Franklin. The conservative Christian network also has programs from prominent Black pastors, such as T.D. Jakes and Creflo Dollar.

Studies have shown that there is a wide gap between white Christians and Christians of color on the issue of police violence against Black Americans. About 71% of white evangelical Protestants believe recent killings of Black men by police are isolated incidents, according to a study published by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2018. About 63% of white Catholics and 59% of white mainline Protestants agree. On the other hand, 84% of Black Protestants say that recent killings of African-American men by police are part of a broader pattern of how police treat African Americans.

In his Instagram video, Franklin said that his goal is “reconciliation” and “accountability.” 

“This is my personal choice to take a stand and hold responsible those in positions of power to acknowledge the issues in our separate communities that have existed from colonialism to Jim Crow,” he said. 

“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” he added.  

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