The USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement convened a group of prominent women to discuss sexual harassment in the Black Church. The Los Angeles Times covered the #MeToo-inspired gathering, organized by Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard, program manager for the Murray Center. Ten women in Los Angeles, including ministers and academics, came together for a meeting that the L.A. Times described as resembling “a party, a church meeting and a group therapy session.” Although women outnumber men in the Black Church, Smith-Pollard explained why sexual harassment is a challenge in the Black Church:
“The black church responds to black male clergy like they are demigods, very revered,” said the Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard, who convened the women as part of her work for the USC Dornsife Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
“You don’t rat out your pastor. You don’t bring the man of God down,” she said. “If a pastor is caught in an indiscretion, sometimes he gets moved, but a lot of black churches are not organizationally led, there is no board, so even if there is misconduct, there is nowhere to turn.”
Even now, she said, a woman is likely to be asked, “ ‘What did you do to provoke it?’ The message I kept hearing growing up was, ‘Pull your skirt down, close your legs.’”