Ahead of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 17, dozens of faith leaders from across the nation have launched a hunger strike to urge Congress to “protect democracy” by passing voting rights legislation.
Faith of Black Lives, a coalition of 25, began the strike on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.
The association said that the violent insurrection represented an attempt to overturn the democratic rule in the U.S. which continues as 19 states have passed 34 laws impacting the right to vote, specifically targeting communities of color.
States have enacted laws to reduce early voting, restrict absentee ballots and seize control of non-partisan election administration official functions.
In addition, extreme partisan gerrymandering threatens access to Black political representation in state and federal elections for the next decade, they said.
“As faith leaders, we are called to speak truth to power and to raise the conscience of this nation through moral resistance,” the Rev. Stephen A. Green, chair, Faith for Black Lives, said.
“This hunger strike reflects our deep commitment to radical love in action to redeem the soul of this nation. As we approach midnight for our democracy, the United States Congress must act urgently to pass voting rights legislation now,” he said.
List of participants:
- Rev. Stephen A. Green, Chair, Faith for Black Lives, New York, NY
- Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, United Church of Christ, Washington, DC
- Rev. Cornell William Brooks, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School, Director, William Trotter Collaborative, Former President/CEO, NAACP, Cambridge, MA
- Rev. Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, Pastor, New Birth Cathedral, Atlanta, GA
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL
- Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, Pastor, Friendship-West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
- Rev. Dr Cassandra Gould, Executive Director, Faith Voices, St. Louis, MO
- Rev. Dr. Lanel D. Guyton, Presiding Elder, Brooklyn-Westchester AME District, Brooklyn, NY
- Pastor Timothy Findley Jr., Pastor, Kingdom Fellowship Church, Louisville, KY
- Rev Renita Green, Pastor, Holy Trinity AME Church, Wilberforce, OH
- Rev. Rodrecus M. Johnson Jr., Pastor, Anderson Chapel, Killeen, TX
- Rev. Dr. Lenny Marshall, Pastor, St. Philip AME Church, Tallahassee, Fl
- Rev. Derrell Wade, Pastor, Macedonia AME Church, Suffolk, VA
- Rev. Dr. Caesar Roland Richburg, Pastor, Bethel AME Church, Columbia, SC
- Rev. Dr. Jonathan L. Weaver, Pastor, Greater Mt. Nebo AME Church, Mitchellville, MD
- Rev. Rickey C. Dennis Jr., Pastor, Mt. Nebo AME, Awendaw, SC
- Rev. Redeem Robinson, Community Pastor, All Souls Movement, Los Angeles, CA
- Rev. James Wesley Dennis III, Pastor, Pine Grove AME Church, Columbia, SC
- Rev. Rashad Moore, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY
- Rev. Dr. Roy Jones Jr., Executive Pastor, Saint Philip AME Church, Atlanta, GA
- Rev. Devon Crawford, Director, William Trotter Collaborative, Harvard Kennedy School
- Rev. Eugene Minson III, Executive Minister, St. Luke AME Church, Harlem, NY
- Rev. Darien Jones, Pastor, Moncks Corner AME Church, Moncks Corner, SC
- Rev. Mary Newton, Pastor, Lee Memorial AME Church, Fort Washington, MD
- Prophet Bryce Graham, Anointed House of Prayer Ministries, West Palm Beach, FL
Historical Hunger Strikes of the Past
Hunger strikes have been used for centuries as a form of nonviolent protest and to provoke policy changes. From prisoners to civil rights leaders, hunger strikes often count as a last line of defense to bring attention to those protesting.
Notable hunger strikes include: Irish Hunger Strikes (the 1920s-1970s); Mahatma Gandhi (1932); and Pedro Luis Boitel, a Cuban dissident (1972).
Prolonged use of a hunger strike as a form of protest can be life-threatening and result in death due to lack of nutrition and the body’s organs shutting down. Though hunger strikes don’t allow for solid food, liquids remain acceptable.