The Rev. C.L. Bryant invigorated the crowd at FreePAC late last month when he encouraged thousands in the audience to “defend the republic,” while also tackling the enslavement that he believes comes along with government dependency. It is this latter message of freedom from the government’s shackles that Bryant has become known for in conservative circles, as the African American faith leader and orator is frequently called upon to drive home the importance of freedom and prosperity for all.
And though he is firmly planted on the right today, Bryant was once working and advocating on the left side of the aisle. In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, Bryant discussed his path from the NAACP to the Tea Party, highlighting his professional and spiritual journey along the way.
BRYANT’S CAREER WITH THE NAACP
Bryant, both an activist and a religious leader, described having joined a Christian church at the age of five. By 22 he was a minister and he’s been an ordained Baptist pastor for the past 27 years, leading three churches throughout his career. Bryant also served as president of the Garland, Texas, NAACP chapter in the late 1980s.
Considering the political nature of the NAACP — and the fact that the group tends to embrace more liberal ideals — it’s surprising that the conservative leader was once in a key leadership position with the organization. Naturally, TheBlaze asked him to explain the experience.
Having grown up in the segregated South, Bryant spoke about some of the challenges he faced growing up.
“I remember ‘Negro Day’ at the fair and that was the one day in the fair that [blacks] could go. I grew up in that type of environment,” he explained, going on to joke, “It always seemed that white folks controlled the weather because it always rained that day!”
These life experiences led to a “natural progression” into NAACP leadership. But success leading the civil rights chapter didn’t last for long. After a celebrated presidency within the group, the tides began to turn.
“I came to a conclusion that they not only wanted to control my agenda — they also wanted to control me,” he explained.
After he declined an invitation to speak at a pro-choice rally based on his personal views on abortion, his problems with the NAACP began. As a result of this principled stance, Bryant said that his “star that was rising began to wane.”
While he inevitably left his leadership role with NAACP, he said that, looking back on the experience, it was a good opportunity that gave him “a unique view of both sides of the aisle.” It was after this stint with the liberal group that Bryant had an epiphany — one that has, for the past 19 years — solidified his standing as a conservative.
HOW BRYANT CONVERTED TO CONSERVATISM
After leaving the NAACP, Bryant moved to Tampa, Florida, with his wife. One day, he recalls listening to the radio in an effort to find Jim Hightower, a liberal commentator he enjoyed listening to. But, rather than finding the show he had come to know and love, he stumbled upon something very different.
“I was flipping through the AM stations and I came across a guy by the name of Rush,” Bryant said, referring to popular radio host Rush Limbaugh. “The more I listened to this guy, Rush — there was something that he was saying that rang true to me.”
From there, the transformation began and Bryant recognized that many leftist policies and ideals create a mindset of victimization among African Americans and others. The path to becoming a conservative, though, hasn’t always been easy. When he joined the Tea Party back in 2009, Bryant, who was pastoring a church at the time, caught the ire of leaders there.
While tensions rose, it wasn’t until 2010, when he began pondering an idea for a film he had been dreaming up (inevitably, this project was produced and released as “Runaway Slave,” a new documentary that tackles the issues of race and dependency). The church was initially willing to forgive his mere conservative opinions, but the film project seemed to tip the scales.
“[Church leaders] came to me and they told me, ‘Pastor, we want you to go back to being the guy that you were when you came here nine years ago,” he explained.
Naturally, that was an impossibility; the conversion was complete. Bryant’s message about Obama — that despite being the same color as African Americans, he didn’t necessarily hold the same values — fell flat with many in his congregation. Inevitably, he left the house of worship and claims that, looking back, “The Lord has opened doors that I would not have seen.”
WHY AFRICAN AMERICANS AVOID THE GOP
Considering the personal and professional issues Bryant has encountered in the African American community, TheBlaze asked him to explain why so many minorities seem turned off by the Republican Party.
“It’s not really that they’re turned off to it – it’s that the progressive liberals have done such a darn good job of using the black pulpit and saturating back minds that the words ‘Republican’ and ‘conservative’ are words that they [have been taught to] fear,” he explained, going on to admit that conservatives also haven’t been successful at reaching blacks en masse.
But despite this failure, the faith leader has no doubt which party is better for the well-being of African Americans.
“To be anything else but a Republican in this country as a black person – you must be out of your mind. It has been the Democrats who have stood in the way of progress,” Bryant added. “If you…seek out what you should do for yourself, you’ll find that as a black American, you’d be nuts not to be a Republican.”
Bryant maintains that the left is hijacking the black pulpit to reinforce its policies and messages among African Americans. In order to “protect” their ideas, liberals, he claims, need blacks to stay on board with their platform. So far, they’ve been successful, as the vast majority (nearly 100 percent) of African Americans voted for President Obama.
“Ninety-five percent of any group voting [for a party] is madness,” he said, admitting that this dynamic is still going on.
But, he hasn’t lost hope.
“There’s something about America. Once you secure freedom for yourself, it’s more precious than any gold…any treasure you could have,” he proclaimed.
BRYANT’S VIEWS ON CURRENT & PAST CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS
As can be imagined, there aren’t too many favorable accolades that Bryant would offer civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. In fact, he believes these men to be opportunists of sorts who have done more negative than good for the African American community.
“They have been made wealthy men by feeding on the carcasses of entrapment and slave mentalities,” he charged. “They have a job to do and their job — much like the overseer back in the time in physical slavery in this country — was to drive the slave to the cotton fields to pick cotton. The job of the overseer today is every two years to make sure that the slave gets to the polls so his votes can get picked.”
These were tough words and a complex and controversial analogy, to say the least. But this perfectly illustrates what the faith leader believes is the problem with modern-day leaders like Jackson and Sharpton. Both men, he believes, are helping to “keep a racially-divided population.”
“Progressives are the slave masters of your Sharptons and Jacksons,” he continued. “They have to hold the line that their liberal masters tell them to hold.”
As for the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the nation’s greatest freedom fighters, Bryant believes that modern-day civil rights leaders are going against what King taught. The famed leader wanted men to be judged “by the content of character rather than content of skin,” Bryant proclaims. This, alone, would presumably debunk many of the ideals that Sharpton and Jackson tout.
Bryant’s most recent project, the aforementioned film “Runaway Slave,” tackles race in America, politics and black conservatism — many of the same subjects and values that the faith leader discussed in his interview with TheBlaze.