Carl Kenney, whose column returns to the Durham News today, used to write for The Herald-Sun when I worked there. I didn't handle his column there, but watched his transformation through his columnist's picture. He started straight-laced, in close cropped hair and a suit. By the time he left he was in dreadlocks.
Kenney was senior pastor at Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church until he split from the hierarchy seven years ago. (His story is told in the book "Barbershops, Bibles, and BET:
Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought.") Today he leads Compassion Ministries of Durham, preaching to about 50 people in the basement of Northgate Mall.
"I talked about liberation in a way they were uncomfortable with," Kenney told me recently, over coffee at Mad Hatter's, a green Save Darfur bracelet around his wrist. "I was involved in the community in a way that mirrored a politician, and they were uncomfortable with that."
Kenney is passionate about journalism, says he has a calling to write as powerful as that to minister. He takes on the powerful, whether church elders, Durham's political committees or City Hall. What he won't do, he says, is speak for 'the black community.'
"I don't think we have a [single] black voice in the community," he says. "My desire is to be the voice in the middle, to be the voice between black and white, between Christian, Hindu, whatever.
"I think I'm respected for that. I think I'm also alienated because of that."
Look for Kenney's column today and send your feedback in a letter to the editor at email@example.com. He won't tell you what to think. I hope he will make you think.