Black pas­tors is­sue ur­gent plea to vot­ers at Sunday ser­vices

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Jeff Karoub and Rachel Zoll

DETROIT >> At Sunday ser­vices, in ral­lies and on so­cial me­dia, black pas­tors urged con­gre­gants to vote, hop­ing to in­spire a late flood of African-Amer­i­can turnout that could help pro­pel Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton to vic­tory in crit­i­cal swing states on Tues­day.

In Detroit, a pas­tor spoke of vot­ing and cit­i­zen­ship. In Philadel­phia, the min­is­ter re­minded con­gre­gants oth­ers had died for their chance to cast a bal­lot. The Rev. Jesse Jack­son spoke to a few hun­dred peo­ple in front of City Hall in Tal­la­has­see, Florida, be­fore they marched a block over to the county court­house to vote early.

Along with women and His­pan­ics, African-Americans are seen as crit­i­cal to Clin­ton’s chances against Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump. How­ever, early vot­ing data from key states in­di­cate turnout will not be as high this year as it was four years ago, when Barack Obama, the na­tion’s first AfricanAmer­i­can pres­i­dent, was on the bal­lot. Sunday’s ef­forts were aimed at min­i­miz­ing that de­cline.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, pas­tor of the Texas megachurch The Pot­ter’s House, tweeted on a red, white and blue back­drop, “Make sure your voice is heard. Vote on Nov. 8.”

“Preach­ers are try­ing to strike a moral nerve and some­how pen­e­trate the fog of in­dif­fer­ence and try to re­mind peo­ple what’s at stake this year,” said the Rev. James Forbes, re­tired pas­tor of The River­side Church, in New York, which hosted a na­tional get-out-the-vote tele­cast Sunday night called “The Re­vival: Time for a Moral Rev­o­lu­tion in Val­ues.”

“These are very cru­cial times to a na­tion with so much anger, so much anx­i­ety about the fu­ture,” Forbes said at the re­vival Sunday night. “We must be very care­ful not to fall prey to the siren call of those who are ped­dlers of false hope, il­lu­sions and lies.”

Forbes has been trav­el­ing the coun­try to mo­bi­lize vot­ers. He and other pas­tors have taken pains to em­pha­size they were not en­dors­ing a can­di­date, but it was hard to mis­take some re­marks Sunday that sig­naled a deep op­po­si­tion to Trump.

“There are some folk in this coun­try who think that to make this coun­try great again, we’ve got to ex­clude folks,” said the Rev. Mark Tyler, pas­tor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, in Philadel­phia, one of the first black churches in the U.S. “We’ve al­ways been great be­cause we’ve al­ways been open to strangers. If it was not for the good­ness of the first Americans, there would be no Amer­ica to­day.”

Trump has made his own ef­forts to build sup­port among black vot­ers, say­ing their loy­alty to the Demo­cratic Party has not im­proved the safety of their neigh­bor­hoods nor the qual­ity of their schools. “What do you have to lose?” he has said. How­ever, polls have con­sis­tently shown Trump’s sup­port among AfricanAmer­i­cans to be in the low sin­gle dig­its.

The num­ber of AfricanAmer­i­can vot­ers has in­creased steadily: 12.9 mil­lion in 2000, 14 mil­lion in 2004, 16 mil­lion in 2008 and 17.8 mil­lion in 2012. In the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, blacks for the first time voted at a higher rate — 66.2 per­cent — than did whites (64.1 per­cent), or AsianAmer­i­cans or His­pan­ics, with rates of about 48 per­cent each.

Be­sides the ab­sence of a black can­di­date on ei­ther ma­jor-party ticket, com­mu­nity lead­ers and oth­ers blame the lower turnout so far on voter sup­pres­sion ef­forts, such as lim­its to early vot­ing hours in some com­mu­ni­ties and chal­lenges by in­di­vid­u­als to voter reg­is­tra­tions. A fed­eral judge Fri­day or­dered reg­is­tra­tions to be re­stored in three North Carolina coun­ties for what could be thou­sands of chal­lenged vot­ers.

Un­der­scor­ing the im­por­tance of black vot­ers to her cam­paign, Clin­ton started her day Sunday with the largely African-Amer­i­can con­gre­ga­tion of Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, in Philadel­phia. The Rev. Leah Daugh­try, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, spoke across town at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Wor­ship­pers clapped and cheered as Tyler, the Mother Bethel pas­tor, told them “don’t let there be any ex­cuse” for not show­ing up at the polls, even with a lin­ger­ing pub­lic tran­sit strike. “Some­body died for you to have a right.”

In Tal­la­has­see, at the event with the mayor and lo­cal pas­tors, Jack­son ref­er­enced civil rights lead­ers

“Preach­ers are try­ing to strike a moral nerve and some­how pen­e­trate the fog of in­dif­fer­ence and try to re­mind peo­ple what’s at stake this year.”

— The Rev. James Forbes, re­tired pas­tor of The River­side Church in New York

and the chaotic 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion he con­tended was “stolen” on be­half of Ge­orge W. Bush by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roz Booker, a black voter, said this elec­tion sea­son has been a “mess,” but her an­ces­tors had died for the right to vote and she had al­ready cast her bal­lot. Booker de­scribed her­self as “an­tiTrump,” crit­i­ciz­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for what she called “pro­mot­ing hate” against mi­nori­ties.

At New Des­tiny Christian Fel­low­ship, a pre­dom­i­nantly black church in Detroit, the pas­tor spoke of be­ing a “good ci­ti­zen” on Elec­tion Day. Con­gre­gant Tif­fany Gunter, who is vot­ing for Clin­ton, noted that en­thu­si­asm in 2016 was lower among African-Americans than in the pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial race. “What Hil­lary Clin­ton has is ex­pe­ri­ence. Is she per­fect? Ab­so­lutely not. There are things about her that I wish were dif­fer­ent, but I be­lieve that she does lis­ten and she can adapt,” Gunter said.


The Rev. Ho­race Sh­effield preaches at New Des­tiny Christian Fel­low­ship in Detroit on Sunday. At Sunday ser­vices, in ral­lies and on so­cial me­dia, black pas­tors la­bored to per­suade con­gre­gants they should vote, hop­ing to minimize an ex­pected drop in black voter par­tic­i­pa­tion this Elec­tion Day com­pared to four years ago when Barack Obama was a can­di­date.

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