BY Francis Akhalbey, 8:30am April 26, 2023,

Oklahoma pastor refuses to apologize after donning blackface to impersonate Ray Charles

Sherman Jaquess, a pastor at Matoaka Baptist Church, donned blackface to impersonate Ray Charles -- Photo via Facebook

An Oklahoma pastor is adamant he did nothing wrong after he received backlash over photos that showed him donning blackface to impersonate Ray Charles. Besides refusing to apologize, Pastor Sherman Jaquess also claimed he’s not racist as he has many friends of different races, adding that he wouldn’t deliberately do something to hurt them, KTUL reported.

Ray Charles was not the only person Jaquess impersonated as the photos that were shared on his Facebook page as well as that of the Matoaka Baptist Church also showed him dressed as a Native American. 

Jaquess said he has served as pastor at the Ochelata-based church for over 10 years. He also reportedly donned blackface to impersonate Ray Charles in February 2017.

“I love Ray Charles,” Jaquess claimed. “I love his music. There wasn’t anything racial about it. I was trying to portray Ray Charles. That’s hard to do as a white man, so I sang the song like Ray Charles, I acted like Ray Charles. I tried to look like Ray Charles.”

When he was asked if he felt what he did was right, Jaquess told the news outlet that he did not “feel like anything I did was derogatory racially at all.”

Marq Lewis, a community organizer, took to Facebook to share the photos of Jaquess donning blackface. The photos in question have since gone viral, per KTUL. “I can’t believe this is happening again and again in Oklahoma,” Lewis said, adding that Jaquess “knows better.”

Lewis also said most of the people who responded to his post sided with him. “This is unacceptable,” Jaquess said. “You will not do this. You will not make a mockery out of this, and you will take this down and you will issue a public apology. That’s what you will do.”

Though the photos of Jaquess impersonating Ray Charles have since been taken down, his personal Facebook page had a photo of him dressed as a Native American woman at the time of this report.

“That picture was 10 or 11 years ago at a Falls Creek Baptist Church youth camp,” Jaquess said in reference to the photo of him dressed as a Native American. “Multiple years, we have different themes, and that theme was cowboys and Indians.”

Jaquess said he felt what he wore was funny, adding that the death threats he had received over the photos had disappointed him. He also said people get offended too easily.

“I don’t apologize for it,” the man of God said. “This church is multiracial, has all different kinds of racial people in it.“

But Lewis said Jaquess refusing to render an apology was disappointing. He also said he hoped more religious leaders in Oklahoma aren’t repeating Jaquess’ actions. “To see this happen on such a scale and for [Jaquess] to be questioned about it and he still doesn’t apologize for it is very troubling for me,” Lewis said.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 26, 2023

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