The Rev. Jamal Bryant has had a busy week. And it’s just Wednesday.
First, the pastor of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple AME Church got arrested Tuesday after praying in front of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to bring attention to the plight of African immigrants. Then he posted — and later deleted — an Instagram image of his head superimposed onto the body of the main character from “Black Panther.”
Bryant documented his visit to Ryan’s office with a video posted to his Instagram account showing him walking with a group of protesters — all wearing black T-shirts that read “Immigration is a black issue” — down a hallway leading up to Ryan’s Capitol Hill office.
The video was accompanied by the caption: “Just released from jail for praying outside Paul Ryan’s office after he refused to open door to discuss justice for African immigrants! #blacklivesmatter #dreamers #daca”
Bryant said the protest was necessary to raise awareness of the undocumented people of African descent who have been excluded from the national immigration debate.
“It’s rare that you hear about Africa and the African diaspora,” he said when reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.
He said Ryan’s office door was locked, with a message taped to the door that indicated all visitors needed to schedule with Ryan in advance.
“I’ve never seen that type of sign anywhere on Capitol Hill,” Bryant said.
When the group started to pray outside of the locked office, police officers showed up and arrested the group of seven, he said. Byrant was charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” court records show.
“We were there five minutes,” he said. “We were not irate, disruptive or belligerent. We want to discuss the needs of undocumented black people.”
Bryant said that he and his fellow protesters were released about four hours later.
“We were treated civilly,” he said.
Bryant hopes the protest leads to raised awareness of the issue and a dialog with Ryan.
Ryan could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Bryant made another splash on Instagram Wednesday with a now-deleted image of his head on the body of “Black Panther” superhero T'Challa announcing a Wakanda-themed sermon series starting at his church this Sunday.
Bryant said that the image contained a couple of typos that needed to be corrected, so he removed it.
“It should be back up,” he said with a laugh.
Like many moviegoers, Bryant said he’s been inspired by the film, which features a majority black cast, director and crew.
“To see black people in a positive light is a breath of fresh air for a community that has been suffocated by stereotypes for so long,” he said. “Finally on the big screen you have Africans celebrated. … There are so many truths packed in there that necessitate a response.”
Bryant is encouraging his parishioners to wear African attire to church for the entire month of March.