For many generations, the church was the keystone of the Black community. Whether good, bad or indifferent, your pastor was more than a preacher on Sunday, he was a family friend, could pop up at Granny’s house for dinner, and held the respect of the community above pretty much anyone else. For my generation and those after me, that personality rarely exists. At a time when the church has shunned anyone that does not fit the cookie cutter mold of Christianity, and the church as a system is under the most scrutiny, there are a few lone messengers that are reaching beyond the pulpits and the walls of the church to impact the lives of the global congregation.
Thomas Dexter “T.D.” Jakes, Sr. is possibly one of the most popular and powerful clergymen of our time. Growing his congregation from 10 to over 14,000 throughout his career, his charismatic and “keep it real” approach, matched with his knowledge of scripture and delivery that will make an entire congregation think “he is talking to me.” Imagine the excitement that came to my heart when I heard was informed that Bishop Jakes was moving to television. Maybe some of you are thinking, “Why, move to television?”
“For me, this is not a new experience,” Bishop Jakes explains during a conversation from his Los Angeles set. “It’s a continuation of a life long endeavor to be uplifting to encourage people to help them explore the best parts of their lives. It’s what I’ve given my life to. It’s just a new audience to which I can be myself. The show is an hour long show and it’s going to be very provocative, entertaining and interactive show. I am going to have you engaged and I want you to be a part of it. A part of social media and a part of my physical audience. I call you my village because I respect your opinion. And I think what is really different about this show is that I come from a different space. I’m not from Hollywood, I’m not an actor, I’m not an entertainer. I’m the son of a janitor and the son of a school teacher. I know those people who are watching me. I lived with them, I grew up with them, I played with them, I learned with them I grew with them. Therefore, I am one from among you and when I talk to you, I talk to you, not from a condescending perspective, but like we’re having a cup of coffee at your kitchen table.”
Daytime television is hard and demanding, especially for a male. Nonetheless, Bishop Jakes decided that he wanted to not on explore relationships but the show how unique they are. Whether it’s family, interpersonal, or work relationships, his goal is to show how we navigate through life dealing with people and the unique nuances that we deal with every day. He wants to talk about societies ills and how we have conflicts and cultures and politics and life with all of its nuances. From conflict resolution to weight loss, to health and exercise, and energy and fun. He wants to have fun and do it all.
“I would love to have Beyonce and her family on my show,” Bishop Jakes laughs. “Because she is an amazing stellar performer and fantastic at what she does. But I want to go beyond what she does to who she is. Who are you when the lights go out? How do you navigate fame with hot sauce? She had a bottle of hot sauce in her pocketbook and says because she’s “a real girl” (laughing) I want to meet that girl. I want to talk to the kids who grew up in a big house and the kids who grew up in the hood. I want to talk to the brother with the sagging pants and I want to talk to the young man who has gone to Harvard. And most of all I want to bring men to the set and let women hear us talk. Because there are so many women who don’t get to hear what men think. I want you to hear what your husband would say if he could talk, or would talk, or should talk.”
Of course, Bishop Jakes is expected to have celebrities on the show. Those that he knows and those that he doesn’t know. He plans to knock on the doors of his friends. Hello Oprah, and Tyler, and Steve Harvey, and LL Cool J, and President Obama, President Bush, and President Clinton. Because in the eyes of Bishop Jakes, we are all interesting. Both the famous and the anonymous. Those who are rich and those who are poor. We are all interesting because poor people are rich in a way that rich people are not.
At a time when race, prejudices, and racism are not only being shown to us but displayed like artwork in the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bishop Jakes has been a guest on town halls and different formats to discuss police brutality, racism, and injustices in poor communities. While he does his best to not take a side, he is very vocal and stands up for the community.
“I think we need to have a conversation,” Bishop Jakes pleads. “I think America is trying to talk about something that we have not talked about as it relates to race in America. I think that we need a platform that we feel comfortable to say what we think, whether it’s right or wrong and perhaps tweek what we think with on other people’s perspectives. I think that this is a very important time for America to come together to find common ground. I honestly think we can find common ground in the midst of the tapestry of diversity that exists in this country. Our country is a quilt, it’s not a blanket. It’s a mixture of wool, and linen, and cotton, and polyester. Somehow, it becomes beautiful because it’s so distinctively different. And that’s what we are going to get from the show. Distinctively different people knitted together living together crying together, figuring it out together. Maybe America will realize that we don’t all have to look the same, dress the same, vote the same for us all to live together and enjoy life and hang out, to breathe the same air. ”
The biggest gap in today’s culture is generational. Our generations do not only misunderstand the actions of each other, we rarely speak, we rarely want to learn from each other, and we rarely show mutual respect. Sadly, that is mainly a United States mentality. I love that Bishop Jakes is ready to tear down that wall. During our conversation, he referenced new Hip Hop artist and “millennial lingo”. Hitting me with phrases like “that part” and “how bout dat” we were able to laugh about social topics and random things that we both find funny. It’s easy for me to say that he is not only up on the game, he stands with his social media presence. Bishop Jakes sends out his own tweets, Instagram photos, and reads the comments on his Facebook page. It’s not at all because he doesn’t have other things that he could be doing. While pastoring The Potters House with over 15,000 congregants, TD Jakes Ministries, being an author, movie producer, movie director, hosting a daily talk show, and more, he is an extremely busy man. Nonetheless, Bishop Jakes is never too busy to learn from the congregants and audiences that he teaches.
“First of all, I’m into social media and that’s not new to me. I’m a baby boomer but, I’m in there with the millennials. I’m hanging out and yes I actually do tweet and I have Instagram and millions of people know that and millions more need to find out. I think it’s a wonderful time in the world to be able to integrate with people all over the world and to have a discussion on a global level and do it from your couch in your living room. I want to have the kinds of conversations that take advantage of both the big and little screen. When you see something shocking and you say “OH NO SHE DIDN’T!” TWEET IT. I want to know what you think, I may not agree with what you think but I want to learn. You may just teach me something and if you do, I have my pad and my pencil and I might write it down.”