Ironically, the hoopla all surrounds a song called “I See a Victory.” The song, from the film “Hidden Figures,” was recorded by gospel singer Kim Burrell and Pharrell “Happy” Williams.
The two were scheduled to perform the song on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Thursday, Jan. 5. But that was before video of Burrell recently preaching a blatantly anti-gay message surfaced on the web. The video was first posted to YouTube on Dec. 30 and quickly went viral.
“That perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women,” Burrell told the congregation at her Love & Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston, Texas. “You as a man, you open your mouth and take a man’s penis in your face — you are perverted. You are a woman and will shake your face in another’s woman’s breast — you are perverted … it has come into our church and it has embarrassed the kingdom of God.”
As a clip of the sermon made the rounds of social media, reaction was swift. Williams was among the first to tweet a response. It did not mention Burrell specifically but was obviously directed at her comments.
“I condemn hate speech of any kind,” Williams tweeted on New Year’s Eve. “There is no room in this world for any kind of prejudice. My greatest hope is for inclusion and love for all humanity in 2017 and beyond.”
Janelle Monae, who stars in the film, retweeted Williams and added a lengthy statement on Instagram.
“I shouldn’t even have to post this as you guys should already know where I stand but If you do not please know I unequivocally repudiate ANY AND ALL hateful comments against the LGBTQ community,” the statement read in part. “In addition, I feel we all belong to the same community, a shared community called humanity. And today and tomorrow and the next day I will continue to stand with other like-minded people who condemn any and all statements and actions that would seek to deny the basic humanity of our fellow brothers and sisters.”
Soon social media carried the controversy to all corners of the globe and a call for action rang out. Thousands of people signed Change.org petitions calling on Williams to refuse to perform with Burrell and asking DeGeneres to cancel her appearance on the show all together.
It didn’t take long for DeGeneres to respond.
“For those who are asking, Kim Burrell will not be appearing on my show,” she tweeted on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The message was succinct and pleasing to many — except, of course, for Burrell. She posted a video to Facebook Live trying to explain her way out of the situation. But she did not express any remorse for the statements she made.
“I never said all gays were going to hell,” Burrell said in the video. “I never said ‘LGBT’ … I said ‘SIN.’ To every person who is dealing with the homosexual spirit, that has it, I love you and God loves you but God hates the sin in you and me — anything that is against the nature of God. I make no excuses or apologies. My love is as pure as it comes.”
But Burrell’s love was not strong enough to keep her from losing her radio show in the wake of the scandal. Her show, called “Bridging the Gap,” was broadcast on Texas Southern University’s KTSU radio station. The station pulled the plug on the show last Wednesday, the day before Burrell was originally scheduled to appear on “Ellen.”
“The Kim Burrell show is no longer airing as part of KTSU Radio programming,” the station said in a statement.
Local LGBT Figures Applaud DeGeneres’ Decision
Last Thursday’s show went on without Burrell and off without a hitch. The song from the film did not get sung but instead Williams and Ellen had a nice little sit down to talk about the film — and about diversity and inclusion. Social media appeared to have worked for once as it was designed to and a positive end result came about.
Roland Smith of Farmington Hills said he felt compelled to send DeGeneres an email asking her not to let Burrell on her show.
“I’m just so happy,” Smith said of DeGeneres’ decision. “I am convinced it was the right thing to do. I commend Ellen. I think the mere fact that she said that Kim Burrell is not welcome on her show sends a message. She did the right thing.
“How dare Kim Burrell call me a pervert and then expect to go on ‘The Ellen Show,’ who is a widely accepted lesbian woman, and then preach her hate,” Smith continued. “That’s very hypocritical of her.”
Bill Schultz of Grosse Pointe agreed.
“It’s interesting that Kim would even appear on Ellen’s show given her beliefs,” Schultz said. “I guess she don’t mind going on a lesbian’s show if there’s something in it for her.”
Rev. Roland Stringfellow of Metropolitan Community Church-Detroit applauded DeGeneres for refusing to allow herself or her show to be used in such a manner. He also had said that the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” song and dance is a smokescreen designed to allow people to put down gays and lesbians in the name of God.
“When people use that line — and they love to use it — they really don’t mean it,” Stringfellow explained. “This whole concept of trying to love me but hate my sin … how then does someone who is condemning show any form of love or compassion or understanding? And I think that’s the takeaway. It’s not even so much around you accepting me, but do you even recognize my common humanity and what I have in connection with you? Often times they do not.
“They see us as outsiders and enemies and people worthy of condemnation,” Stringfellow continued. “Clearly that is the stance she took with her sermon: trying to be godly. What she ended up doing was simply turning away so many people … I don’t believe God was pleased at all by a message such as that, not only by Kim Burrell but by any minister who would chose to condemn whole communities in their sermon.”
Rev. Dr. Selma Massey of Whosoever Ministry in Detroit saw it much the same way.
“Unfortunately, Ms. Burrell has not bothered to read the entire Bible, which says that no one can curse whom God has blessed,” Massey said. “Also, clearly she has not read the fine print in the Bible that says, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ Judging is a sin so she would be condemning herself.”
There are some, of course, who feel that DeGeneres should have let Burrell come on her show, that her appearance could have produced a teachable moment. But Sarah Reed of Farmington said she believed the TV host had schooled her by not letting her on her show.
“Ellen has been such a force behind the LGBTQ community for so long,” said Reed. “To have Kim on her show and just ask her why she did it would have been a slap on the wrist. Something needed to be taken away from Kim that would leave a mental mark. I believe that Pharrell and Ellen both acted in the best way possible. She needs to be left with a sting as big as or greater than the one she gave us. She needs to understand that freedom of speech, although completely her right, can have consequences that might have prolonged effects.”