Manitoba

Black Hebrew Israelites new in Winnipeg but old phenomenon in U.S.

A trio of men who say they are the true Jews and preach in a confrontational manner on downtown Winnipeg street corners about a coming apocalypse are a relatively new phenomenon in the city, but they are part of a larger movement that started in the United States.

Winnipeg trio preaches about vengeful black Jesus who will return to earth to kill whites

A trio of men who say they are the true Jews and preach about a coming apocalypse in a confrontational manner on downtown Winnipeg street corners are a relatively new phenomenon in the city, but they are part of a larger movement that started in the United States. (YouTube)

A trio of men who say they are the true Jews and preach in a confrontational manner on downtown Winnipeg street corners about a coming apocalypse are a relatively new phenomenon in the city, but they are part of a larger movement that started in the United States.

The Black Hebrew Israelite movement has many different versions, but the main theme is African-American people are descendants of the Hebrew Israelites. 

"Often the folks who are soapboxing on the street have a variation of several different themes that they try to propagate. One is this claim that African Americans are descendants of the Hebrew Israelites, and it usually comes with a related claim that then the folks who are European, who claim to be Jews, are imposters," said John Jackson, the dean of the school of social policy and practice at the University of Pennsylvania and an urban anthropologist who has studied Black Hebrew Israelites.

"They're saying they're the real Hebrew Israelites. They're the real descendants of the patriarchs. The fact that you don't know that and you think that European Jews are authentic Jews is a lie, a conspiracy — all that sort of stuff," said Jackson.

The trio of Winnipeg men who deliver sermons on Winnipeg streets were involved in a brawl on Sept. 26 at Central Park.

Police responded, but there were no arrests or charges laid.

According to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors similar groups, Black Hebrew Israelites believe "when the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, the Israelites were first scattered across the African continent and then selectively targeted by enemy African tribes who captured and sold them to European slave traders for bondage in the New World." 

A topic that often comes up in the sermons of the Winnipeg group is an impending apocalypse.

"Their ultimate goal is to bring about sort of a race war that will cleanse the planet and bring Jesus back. [They say,] 'We're doing all this stuff. We're being as provocative as we are on the street corner because we're really trying to foment the kind of ultimate clash between good and evil — between God's chosen people and the damned and the imposters — so that we can bring about the second coming and a new world,'" said Jackson.

During sermons, the Winnipeg trio displays a poster of a white Jesus with devil's horns and the number 666 across his forehead.

The poster reads, "Jesus is a negro, not a white man."

"The scriptures say that we're supposed to cry out loud and raise our voice up like a trumpet," Raymond Marcelline, one of the preachers, said about their confrontational approach. "We're not whispering. We're out there to tell people and inform people on what's going on.… We're not there to offend people, but yeah, people do get offended."

Jackson, who has observed these groups extensively, said in his experience, Black Hebrew Israelite street preachers are usually disciplined in terms of not pushing interactions with the public to the point of physical violence. 

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