C.L. Bryant: Breaking the New Chains with "Runaway Slave"

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CL Bryant Runaway Slave

The Reverend C.L. Bryant is a statistical political anomaly: a former leader in the NAACP who made the conscious decision to do a political about-face and join the conservative Tea Party movement. His political documentary, "Runaway Slave," is both a history lesson, a study in comparative social structures, and a rousing call to action.


What drove you to produce "Runaway Slave," and what's the core message you were seeking to deliver?

The core message is to project courage to anyone wanting to leave a system that will and has been enslaving a particular people -- black folks -- for over fifty years. It took courage for a slave to say to himself, and ultimately to his master, "I don't want your clothes. I don't want your food or your shelter. I want freedom to determine my own food, my own clothing, my own shelter, and what that will be." And to run away from that system, not knowing if they'd ever see freedom -- that took a special brand of courage.

And even though it's not stated in any way [in the film], the pilgrims who came here had that same type of "Runaway Slave" courage. They weren't fleeing the tyranny of the plantation, but they were fleeing the tyranny of King Charles. And that's the American spirit. That's what it takes to be an American.

In the film, you make reference to the Underground Railroad as the means used for escaping slaves during the Civil War era. How do people go about escaping this modern slavery you describe in the film if they don't realize they're enslaved in the first place?

This is the wake-up call that has to be sent out: If you do not value your personal freedom -- if shaping own life, taking responsiblity for your own life and your own future and that of your children does not motivate you to go off government mandates on your life, then nothing will. That's the message to black folks. And with 47% -- as Mitt Romney pointed out, and as we already knew -- of Americans who are trapped in this system, it is the reality of where we are and what's happening to us that has to be that call.


not Al Sharpton, is not Jesse Jackson. He is acceptable to us, as white progressive liberals." Black folks should have been very incensed over the fact that they were being told that "Here's somebody that you all can vote for, and we'll support him."

This has been the modus operandi of progressive liberals down through time, especially in the Civil War, in the 30s, in the 40s, in the 50s, and in the 60s. It was a Democrat who stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama. George Wallace. He was a Democrat. It was Democrats who were trying to stop the Little Rock Nine from going to school in Arkansas, when a Republican President named Dwight D. Eisenhower had to send in the National Guard to allow them to go to school. It was Democrats who formed the KKK, Democrats who had back-of-the-bus riding for blacks in the South, Democrats who upheld Jim Crow laws in the South. Black folks have been duped and hoodwinked into believing that someone with an R in front of their name has been their enemy, and people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been co-conspirators in keeping that lie alive.

So if it's not the policies that pulled the 96% of blacks toward President Obama, would they have swayed the other direction if Obama had not run in 2008 for the Democrats, and Allen West had for the Republicans?


Yeah, he got Muammar Gaddafi, and yes, he's gone. But he has to own Libya. He can't blame that on Bush.

However, to answer the second part of your question, I do feel there is a shift that is going to take place in the black voting block toward a more conservative way of voting. Why? Because as we -- I and David Webb did a particular segment in the movie, we said that black folks have been angry for a long time. And they're still angry now. It's time now to at least try something different, and as long as there's a two party system -- because I really don't think a third party's going to make much of a difference in the short term; maybe in the long run we'll see it, but not right now. So the only other alternative for black folks who want their vote to be counted is to at least try voting for our Home Team party. And our Home Team party has always been, in this country, the Republican party.

Catherine Davis brings up the point in "Runaway Slave" that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger recruited black ministers to quell any concerns in the black communities about abortions. As a minister yourself, what kind of rationalization was there to promote something like abortion when part of the essence of the role of a minister would be to be against it?

I have seen both sides of this street. I was a black minister when I was president of the NAACP in Garland, Texas back in 1988. And I saw the co-opting of the black pulpit and the NAACP itself. The reason I left and split with the NAACP was because I had received a directive to go and speak at a pro-choice rally in Dallas County, from then director of the organization, Dr. Benjamin Hooks. And I turned down that invitation. I said, no, I'm not going to do that because I'm a preacher -- and he was a preacher -- and I said, "I'm sure you'll understand."

I noticed one thing: my star that was rising in the organization all of a sudden began to set in this organization. I told my wife, "They don't want to control just my agenda, they want to control me. And they want to use me to control a group of people." When we saw the NAACP here in 2012 come out and stand with this President on his platform of supporting gay marriage, and with this President who supports murdering, wholesale, black babies... in New York, in 2008, there were more black babies killed in their mothers' wombs than were born. And this President supports this kind of thing? When you see black preachers supporting that, it tells us one thing: that the black pulpit has been co-opted, thus co-opting the black congregation, and thus co-opting the black community. When you see NAACP people standing up like that, and you have many black preachers who support it -- not all, because you have a movement of black preachers who are totally against this particular idea, and they have told President Obama that we're not in your back pocket. This is why I say you're going to see a lot of black folks stay home, because they haven't brought themselves yet to the point where they can vote for a Republican -- because they're still under the spell of progressive liberalism. They don't realize they've been lied to about Republicans and conservatives. Modern day conservatives are not like the racist conservatives of the South; they're the modern day conservatives who want to adhere to the founding principles of the Constitutional document that has made us all free. They haven't come to that realization yet, because they're still being lied to.

So, as a black preacher, I call on all other preachers, black and white -- church leaders in this country to take a stand for what scripture has challenged us to stand on. If we go back to the Civil War, and we understand that if the church as a whole, with one voice, had stood up and said, "Slavery is wrong!" there would not have been a need for a Civil War. But the church of yesterday and the church of today is walking far too softly in a field they should be stomping through.

Will "Runaway Slave" see a DVD release prior to the 2012 elections?

Probably not. It is incumbent upon us to get this into as many theaters across the country as we possibly can. We're opening in twenty different twenty more markets here in the next week or two. I doubt seriously that we would be on DVD in the next... Well, we could be. Could be. There's a possibility. But I doubt seriously that we'd be on DVD before the election.

And the beauty of "Runaway Slave" is this: unlike "2016", if the President loses this election, "2016" vanishes into the archives -- although they've done very well. But whether Obama wins or loses, "Runaway Slave" remains a very pertinent and important film.