African-American leaders involved in the event, and some who decided not to come, said they were happy with Beck’s rally and the way that black ministers were involved.
“When the rally went off, the concerns I had were done away with. I might have had some concerns initially, but those concerns were dropped,” said Rev. William Owens, chairman of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a 72-year old leader who organized with King in Memphis during the Civil Rights movement.
Privately in conversations with other leaders, Owens was one of the most vociferous critics of Beck in the days leading up to the event. Though he was invited to attend by Alveda King, the niece of the civil rights leader who spoke at the rally, he refused to attend.
“The initial concern was he would have just a few black people, just to show off, just a few,” said Owens, who is conservative and whose son is heavily involved in speaking at Tea Party events. “From the sound of it, what I heard was they were using blacks as tokens, as camouflage.
“But I didn’t see that happen. I think Glenn was very sincere,” Owens said.