Some people laughed at the preacher in the royal wedding. This is why I cried.

Video by mwn

The moment Oprah Winfrey arrived, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a traditional Royal Wedding.

But then again, we already knew that. In a revolutionary first for the House of Windsor, the bride was American, and bi-racial. She identifies as a woman of colour.

So it makes sense that she has American friends attend her wedding. And that some of those American friends – like Oprah and Serena Williams – are non-white Americans; like the bride.

And yet…it seems that some people were wholly unprepared for black representation at Windsor Castle.

Sure, they expected mother of the bride Doria Ragland, who was resplendent in the peaceful, joyous aura that surrounded her.

But perhaps they didn’t expect the all-black gospel choir that sang Ben E King’s Stand by Me; even though their presence made perfect sense. The Kingdom Choir (a black Christian group that is based in southeast London and specialises in gospel music), and its leader, the renowned gospel singer Karen Gibson, were a wonderful blend of Meghan’s heritage and her British future.

And very different to the Church’s traditional choirboys seen at other Royal weddings.

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Meghan’s heritage was also represented by 19-year-old cello soloist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black musician to win the BBC’s Young Musician Award in its 38-year history. And of course, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, who led prayers.

The wedding was a blend – it was balanced – because two people from two backgrounds were getting married. And they both wanted to be represented.

Some had the foresight to identify that before the day. For example, the BBC recognised the historic occasion and reflected it in their coverage, by including specifically selected black broadcasters and commentators.

But then there were many others who just didn’t get it at all. I read an opinion claiming that Meghan “made a point” at her wedding. But Meghan was not “trying to make a point.” She was including elements of herself, her history, her culture – her identity – in her wedding.

Just as every single bride does.

No greater example of her intention was the inclusion of the now viral sermon given by Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, a highly respected American preacher, and the 27th Presiding Bishop the Episcopal Church. Undoubtedly, the Bishop was different to anything the walls of Windsor Castle had ever seen.

He spoke from what looked like an iPad. He was animated, sincere, loud and intense. His poignant and deeply moving sermon referenced American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior.

That would have been so meaningful to the bride and her mother, as well as to other guests in attendance.

Prince Charles with Doria Ragland. Source: Getty

But it was all too much for a lot of people - too foreign to what they've known. Ignoring every incredible word the Bishop uttered, they dashed to social media, posting memes and jokes, trying to outdo each other with exaggerated racial stereotypes of the man. The Bishop was ridiculous to them, because he was different.

I even had a friend complain to me that the Bishop sounded too "preachy" - despite preaching being literally what he does, and the reason why he was there.

Don't get me wrong - the extreme discomfort of the Royals during the sermon was hilarious. And yes, the Bishop spoke for...a while. The whole world just wanted to get to the kiss by that stage.

But I didn't use that time to get up and make a coffee, or as a "loo break", as some claimed they did.

Instead, I couldn't quite believe what I was witnessing: a black preacher, quoting a black icon, in a church in Windsor Castle. I was stunned by the significance of what was happening, and I certainly wasn't alone:

But to many, it didn't matter that the Bishop is the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Or that he has spoken out on social justice issues in the past, including LGBT rights and sexual abuse.

Instead, cameras rested on the faces of the Royals, whose reactions ranged from amused to confused.

But that certainly wasn't my reaction.

I don't think I can fully articulate how far this Royal wedding went in normalising diversity and inclusion in the eyes of the world - even if people didn't realise that's what was happening.

The wedding wasn't a statement. It wasn't political. And yet, the message was clear: after being told for too long that people of colour aren't equal, and believing they would never be good enough, that they would always be outsiders: here was all evidence to the contrary. Here was progress.

And I teared up at that realisation, thinking of what the moment, and the marriage, means for the future acceptance, hope and dreams, of my own bi-racial son.

 

 

 

 

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