“And what would they have me say? Call the white man a devil?” he snaps. “We have gotten to be such mouth merchants. Doing showtime on TV, waving yellow handkerchiefs and wearing purple shoes. Latinos are saying, ‘It’s our time.’ Asians are saying, ‘It’s our time.’ And the rhetoric is saying nothing. Blacks are crying, and nobody is hearing it.”
The biggest service Murray has provided during his tenure may well be his ability to make people far beyond the church walls hear him. FAME has become a de rigueur L.A. stop for out-of-towners as big as Bill Clinton — Murray was preaching the value of forgiveness at the pulpit when the ex-president was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal — and as up-and-coming as Kim Dong-gil, a South Korean presidential hopeful in the early ’90s. “He gets his phone calls returned from everyone, and he has positive relationships with so many people. I can’t think of anyone else with that kind of clout,” says Valerie Lynne Shaw, president of the city’s Board of Public Works and a longtime community activist. “He’s the premier power broker in L.A. People way outside the community know FAME. Through his own personal charisma, Chip Murray’s been able to connect the black community to lots of other constituencies. He really is a link. Nobody has his reach, his breadth of contacts to make things happen in L.A. He can call a homeowner group in Watts, or in the Valley, or a major bank, and they’ll all call him back. What non-elected official can do that? What other black person could bring all those folks together?”
Well, maybe Michael Jackson — who, incidentally, paid FAME a surprise visit not long ago, almost certainly to shore up his own black credentials in a time of crisis. In these strange days of extreme wealth and extreme want — “a place we have never been to before,” says Murray — the soon-to-be-ex-pastor doesn’t have a problem with that. So long as the Gloved One is willing to get on a task force.