D.C. Pastors Voice Concerns of Voter Apathy

The 2016 presidential election is a month away and a coalition of D.C. pastors say that too much is at stake for African-Americans to stay home and not vote just because they may not like the choice of candidates.

“This election is critical in the history of this nation,” said the Rev. Frank Tucker, pastor of the First Baptist Church in DC and president of the Wednesday Clergy Fellowship.

“This election will determine the future of this nation in terms of whether we will work together or be a country of those who have and those who have not. It is important that people go the polls and vote.”

From Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, to Rev. E. Gail Anderson Holness, pastor of Christ Our Redeemer Episcopal Church, the pastors part of this ecumenical group welcome the prophetic role that the black church has played in politics and they say that their voices has never been more needed with a candidate like Donald Trump.

“The Klan and white supremacist have found themselves a Messiah and we have to drive people to the polls like never before,” said Hagler, a civil rights activist who in 1991 ran for mayor in Boston. “We wouldn’t have a museum on the mall if had not been for activism and we have to nurture that political will.”

Holness, another long time activist and member of the DC Democratic Women’s Club, said “People have literally died for us to vote and now apathy is rampant and I am not just talking about millennials, there are people over 50 who are not part of the process and we are pushing them.”

In addition to the African-American pastors Rev. Bernard Hildenbrand, a white pastor and retired minister in the United Methodist Church, voiced his concerns about Donald Trump trying to turn back the clock and how President Obama has been victimized by racism.

“We have had seven and a half years of an outstanding administration constantly harassed by racism and people saying the man is not even an American,” Hildenbrand said. “The feelings are so racially hostile in so many places until it has been a disgrace, we now have a chance now to vote for the first female president who has been a strong supporter of the last seven and a half years of our first African-American president.”

While Trump talks about making America “great again,” Hildenbrand said he is talking about returning a time when things were segregated.

“I am 91. When I first came to this town, I was in the white section of the trolley car which in those days went by the White House, so I have seen these enormous changes,” Hildenbrand said.

Rev. Alfred also remembers the civil rights protests of the 1960s. He said what is so disturbing is how members of Congress “are trying to block” all the gains African-Americans have made, and with Trump, “now they have a voice.”

The Rev. Robert G. Childs, pastor of the Berean Baptist Church, and a former member of the DC Board of Education, said, “Regardless of how we feel, we have to vote. When you don’t vote, you settle for whoever wins.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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