The Matoaka Baptist Church in Ochelata, Oklahoma, has been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the biggest Protestant organization in the United States. Following the reemergence of images and a video depicting the church’s pastor, Sherman Jaquess, mimicking the late musician Ray Charles in blackface at a talent contest, a decision was made. The suggestion that the church be declared “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention was approved by the executive committee of the SBC because the church had neglected to respond to complaints regarding discriminatory actions based on ethnicity.

The Incident with Blackface

Sherman Jaquess showcased his Ray Charles impersonation on his Facebook page in a video that he uploaded in 2017. Jaquess performed in full blackface, covering his face, neck, and hands with dark makeup and wearing a wig. A racist tradition dating back centuries, blackface is when white entertainers paint their faces black to make fun of Black people. Local activist Marq Lewis first made the event public in April by posting screenshots from the talent show on social media.

SBC’s Reaction and Its Aftereffects

The executive committee of the SBC concluded that Matoaka Baptist Church was not cooperative in resolving issues pertaining to discriminatory conduct. As so, the church will forfeit some rights inside the convention. It is no longer able to make donations through the SBC’s cooperative program or seat voting delegates. The SBC’s resolve to dealing with instances of racial insensitivity within its member churches is demonstrated by the expulsion decision.

Pastor’s Reaction and Racism Denial

The pastor of Matoaka Baptist Church, Sherman Jaquess, declined to comment on the convention’s ruling or his own conduct in 2017. Jaquess said he is not racist and refuted any negative intent when he impersonated Ray Charles in a statement to The Baptist Press. He insisted that there was nothing offensive or disparaging about his act and that the camera’s flash had turned his face black.

Although he acknowledged that any act of defamation is disgusting, Jaquess compared his impersonation to situations in which Black people play different races in comedies or films, implying that it shouldn’t be taken personally.

Public Reaction and Possible Suggestion

Marq Lewis, a local activist, thanked supporters for continuing to put pressure on the Southern Baptist Convention to expel the church and praised the convention for its decision. The decision to expel Matoaka Baptist Church can be appealed, according to convention spokesperson Jon Wilke.