Washington, DC – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based a coalition of 34,000 member churches along with additional 116,000 black churches comprised of 15 denominations and 25.7 million African American Christians cite the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans as the latest an institution which is racially discriminating against African Americans through the practice of racial profiling.
Rev. Anthony Evans and Rev. Sheldon Williams while visiting the city of New Orleans over the past weekend witnessed and were a target of racial profiling. The incident occurred on Saturday, May 4th around 6 pm. Rev. Evans asked Rev. Williams, Pastor of the Co-op Baptist Church to meet him for dinner at 6 pm. Rev. Evans told him that he would meet him in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency where he was staying at the time. If anyone knows this property it is sort of a commuter property, it has a large lobby and it is a hotel that has 1,000 rooms. One can imagine how busy that area is at any given time. I had to describe the activities of the lobby because it will put into context the events that occurred next.
The security guard named “James” approached Rev. Williams and began to question him as to why he was sitting in the lobby. He introduced himself and indicated that he was waiting for a guest at the hotel, which was Rev. Anthony Evans. This incident would have no bearing or impact whatsoever if he had done the same thing with the other white guests sitting in the lobby and waiting to go to dinner. One would have interpreted such action as acting in form as an Ambassador of the hotel making sure that the individuals that were unfamiliar with the property found their destination or the event to which they were invited to attend.
The reason why we are upset is that the security guard zeroed in only on Rev. Williams who was just sitting there. He was the only black male in the lobby at the time. He was not exhibiting any out of character behavior. He was not singing, he was not on his phone, he was not looking suspicious, he was not sweating, he didn’t have a backpack-he was just sitting there and waiting for Rev. Evans. James the security guard decided to racially profile him and begins to question him on the nature of his visit and why he was sitting there. One can only logically conclude that Rev. Williams was a victim of racial profiling and this is a practice that is obviously sanctioned by the Hyatt Regency. They obviously teach their security team to focus on black people, especially black males. We can easily prove this incident by simply replaying the videotape at on May 4, during that hour in the lobby, which clearly shows the action of the security guard James towards Rev. Williams.
What makes this incident crazy from our perspective is that the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency is an African American by the name of Michael Smith.
Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative says, “When Rev. Sheldon Williams informed me of the incident, I immediately confronted the security guard and told him that we would not tolerate such racial profiling by anyone. Then I asked for the MOD-the Manager on Duty, where I made a verbal complaint and told them that we do not want an apology and that we would follow up this action with moral action concerning the Hyatt Corporation. Ironically, I was in town to meet with fifty churches concerning discrimination against our members in the local TV industry. Therefore Rev. Evans has taken swift action by banning all of the organizations 250 executive ministers from staying at any Hyatt until this matter is satisfactorily addressed. We are evaluating and planning for a larger action in the near future.”