Singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” a coalition of faith leaders and civil rights activists marched Wednesday to the gates of the White House, where they prayed and called Congress to pass voting rights legislation stalled by Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The faith leaders staged a march because of concerns over S.1, “For the People Act,” in the Senate and H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, that they say is morally imperative to pass at a time Republican-controlled statehouses across the country have passed laws to suppress voting.
“The Black church again has to provide leadership because voter suppression not only affects people of color, it affects Democracy, especially when you look at what they are trying to do in Georgia,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson, prelate over the 6th Episcopal District of Georgia. He was the protest leader at the White House, where people like Darwin A. Curry held up signs that read, “Our Vote is Sacred.”
“I live in the 1960s, and we don’t need to go back,” said Curry, who joined members of the Metropolitan AME in the District as well as pastors from Georgia, including Bishop Jamal Bryant, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. DeLishar Davis of People For the American Way and Dr. Barbara Skinner of the National African American Clergy Network.
On Tuesday night, the clergy gathered in the ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel, where they preached and prayed for change.
“You do know [why] we have the Electoral College?” preached Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of Metropolitan AME in the District. “To bring the southern states into the union, they had to give them an outside piece of the Electoral College because they wanted to keep us in bondage.”
Lamar employed passages from the book of Exodus, comparing the plight of African Americans to today to the midwives of the children of Israel who continued to deliver children despite being oppressed by the Egyptian ruler. The event was unique because most religious services and events have been relegated to Zoom since the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the service, Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, CEO of the National Council of Churches, read from Ephesians 6:11 in the New Testament: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
The D.C. gathering coincided with the election in Nashville, Tenn., by the Southern Baptist Convention of Rev. Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., as president. He drew 52 percent of the vote of convention delegates in a runoff election Tuesday after he and three other candidates failed to get more than 40 percent of the vote on the first ballot.
Litton made racial reconciliation a central theme of his campaign to lead the Southern Baptist Convention to conclude its two meetings in Nashville today. He was nominated by Rev. Fred J. Luter, a pastor from Louisiana who in 2012 became the first African American elected as SBC president.
Copeland-Tune said Litton’s election is progress, but added, “more needs to be done.” Bryant said that Republicans are trying every voter suppression tactic because “they are afraid that results of the next election will yield what the new America is supposed to look like.”