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The Rev. Robert Sellers, Friendship Baptist, ‘Dr. King taught us to disagree in peace’

The Rev. Robert Sellers, pastor, Friendship Baptist Church, Homewood. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times

One of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s lessons that he still takes to heart is how to disagree in peace, said the Rev. Robert Sellers, Friendship Baptist Church, Homewood, where he has been pastor for the past 17 years.

“I think it’s important that we as a people learn to navigate through conflict, whether it’s racial, financial, social, or otherwise,” he said. “I don’t want to create more pain in the process of trying to lessen pain. … I don’t think we should lose any other lives during a protest trying to save lives.”

An important part of protest lies in how you spend your money, said Sellers, explaining that boycotts can be extremely effective. Consider, for instance, the King-led Montgomery Bus Boycott, which caused that city’s bus system to suffer a significant financial loss because 70 percent of riders were Black—and eventually led to a repeal of segregated bus laws.

“Your shopping dollars are powerful. If you see that someone isn’t being treated fairly in an establishment, you should not return. People will get the message if you are not patronizing them,” said Sellers, adding that consumers also have an effective tool now that was not available in the 60s.

“If you aren’t being treated fairly, there are a lot of avenues through which you can make that known, such as on social media,” he said. “For me, some [people] have reached out to me to try to help resolve [the problem of not being treated fairly at an establishment]. I think that’s a mechanism that enables us to go [directly to the establishment] to help find a solution rather than make a lot of noise.”

Sellers also encourages people to share when an establishment treats them well.

The Friendship Baptist pastor offered his opinion of the recent Capitol Hill riot, as well, making a comparison between the way law enforcement responded to that event and the way they handle protests by Black people.

“There would have been massive deaths and beatings [by police],” he said. “President-Elect [Joe Biden] also said the protesters were treated much differently than they would have if they had been Black. I think what happened at the Capitol should not have occurred, but it shows the true colors of a lot of people.”

Click one of the links below to read what other pastors had to say. 

The Rev. Charles Winston, New Mount Moriah Baptist Church, Hueytown

The Rev. Ken Gordon, House of Light Church, downtown Birmingham

The Rev. Dr. Michael Wesley Sr., Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Southwest Birmingham

The Rev. Thomas Beavers, New Rising Star Church, Birmingham’s Brown Springs neighborhood

Bishop Calvin Woods, Shiloh Baptist Church, Birmingham’s Norwood neighborhood