How does a former NAACP chapter president, a self-proclaimed liberal who championed the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, end up in the hyper-conservative Tea Party?
C.L. Bryant will tell you how, because that's his story—one he shares in Runaway Slave, a new documentary now playing in limited theaters. In the film, Bryant, former pastor of a Texas Baptist church, depicts the conservative roots of the African American community and argues that a new Underground Railroad movement is necessary for liberation from entitlements.
Bryant believes that many blacks don't appreciate the freedoms and opportunities in place since the civil rights movement, instead living as if they're still under oppression and injustice. He also calls on conservatives to tell their side of African American history.
He analyzes the views and conceptions of the black community, and interviews conservative African American leaders such as Herman Cain, Dr. Alveda King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), economist Thomas Sowell, and more.
Bryant spoke with CT's Jasmine Young about his intentions and purpose behind the film.
You were once an NAACP leader, and now you're a conservative Tea Party patriot who openly criticizes the NAACP. How did that happen?
Twenty-three years ago when I was president of the NAACP in Garland, Texas, I was asked by the national office to speak at a prochoice rally. As a minister and person of faith, I could not reconcile that, so I turned it down. In doing so, my star that was rising in the organization began to take a decline. They not only wanted to control me, they wanted to use me to control a block of people. So I started on a conservative path with them turning on me.
How has the NAACP moved away from its original mission?
They have been totally co-opted by progressive liberals and the far left part of the Democrat Party. It's been a thorough takeover of the organization. When the organization was founded [in 1909], many black Americans were Republicans, and the organization was nonpartisan. It was set up not only with black people, but many former abolitionists too. But now the NAACP is no longer in tune to the value system of the people it was created to serve.
What criticism do you receive because of your political views?
It's paradoxical in the way I am received and the movie is received. For example, Nancy Pelosi and Rick Santorum are both Italian; one is a Democrat, one a Republican. They don't vilify each other for being a bad Italian, for being Republican or Democrat. But with black people, unfortunately, if you have a different political viewpoint, then you often become evil in the sight of the group. And as portrayed it in the film, it's tied to tribalism.
Why do you think African Americans feel that way?
Because they have not realized that we as a people have evolved, like every other ethnic group that came to this country. Even though ours was very much involuntary, we still were brought to these shores and we have been emancipated here in America. And we now have the same opportunities as anyone else. But many black people still are crippled by the rhetoric of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who want to keep them co-dependent upon the government policies and programs of the Great Society and Lyndon Johnson.
How does your Christian faith inform your beliefs and impact your work?
I am a strong believer in the Judeo-Christian principles that shaped and formed our country, even though in the early years of our American existence those beliefs did not free my great-grandparents. But those beliefs eventually shaped the consciousness of an American people that causes me to be able to speak the way I do today as a free man. I'm a representative of perhaps the greatest success story the world has ever known—the survival of a people who went through slavery, and now a person who is able to defend those same values that not only freed my great-grandparents but keeps me free now. It's those Christian values that not only free me, but keep many people in the world free. As Christians, we've always defended the rights of others to practice their faith freely. I want to make certain through exercising my faith that I pass along to everyone else in search of freedom those liberties, individual freedoms, and strong Christian principles.