By Julissa Catalan
Jeff Fugate, Pastor for the Clay Mills Road Baptist Church, is under fire for allowing a man wearing Blackface to participate in a staged boxing match at his Lexington, Ky., church.
The event was part of the annual National Young Fundamentalist Conference (NYFC). This year’s conference theme was “Contend.”
The story picked up steam when Fugate’s assistant, Joseph G. Pickens, posted a photo to his Twitter account of himself in full Blackface boxer attire with the caption “#NYFC 2014 fool! It’s about to go down! Who thinks they can #content with the champ???
Fugate told the Daily Mail that his assistant was playing the role of Mr. T, with a Black teen stepping in as a stunt double to “lose” the fight. He believes the entire production was misinterpreted and maintains that he was unaware of the Blackface skit until seeing it along with the rest of the audience. The Daily Mail said that during a 10-minute interview, Fugate, who has led the church for 23 years, apologized more than a dozen times.
“If we did something to offend someone, it was out of ignorance and I apologize,” Fugate said. “It was innocent, I promise you.”
But it wasn’t innocent, and the pastor only made the stereotyping worse when he added that Pickens plays the “villain” at every conference.
Fugate said the skits are never cleared by him ahead of time, then tried to blame Pickens’ inexperience in the church. “[Pickens] just graduated last year from our Bible college. That guy is just a young assistant, he is not even a pastor … he’s just an assistant.”
The community is left wondering why “just a young assistant” who “just graduated Bible college” last year would be responsible for playing the “villain” every year, as well as be in charge of putting together skits for an annual conference without the clearance of an experienced pastor.
Pickens has not released a public apology and has since made his Twitter page private, and deleted the photo.
In the eight-minute video, Pickens’ Blackface Mr. T battles Curly from The Three Stooges.
Fugate, meanwhile, admitted that a decent amount of his churchgoers are Black and claims that he has “absolutely zero racism in my heart toward Black people.”
The Offensive Blackface Trend
Blackface has unfortunately been a trending topic in the last few years—most recently with the Italian edition of Vogue which featured model Saskia de Brauw in a spread titled “Abracadabra” wearing ethnic garb and black and orange face paint.
This past Halloween, actress and professional dancer Julianne Hough also made headlines for sporting Blackface as part of her costume when she dressed as Crazy Eyes from the TV show Orange Is the New Black.
However, the most offensive and ignorant costume of the season was a team effort, and not courtesy of a celebrity. A couple of young adults gained a lot of negative attention for their costumes portraying Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. The man dressed as Martin wore Blackface makeup and a large gray hooded sweatshirt with blood splatter on the chest, while the man dressed as Zimmerman wore a T-shirt that read “Neighborhood Watch” while holding his hand like a pistol up to the other man’s head.
This terrible Blackface display also garnished the same type of negative backlash once a photo was posted to a social-media site.