CommunityHamil R. Harris

First Baptist Church of Highland Park’s Caravan Takes Issues Directly to Community

Marion Jamison will never forget attending the 1963 March on Washington because “I enjoyed doing that because there was such a meaning inside of me that said this is what you have to do.”

But on Friday, 57 years later, Jamison and her 15-year-old granddaughter decorated the rear window of their car with “Black Lives Matter,” and the names of Freddie Gray, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the names of others who have been shot by the police. Their car was part of a caravan the church organized to make people aware of the issues, register to vote and encourage people to register for the census.

“As a young person when I watch the news and I see my peers dying it really hurts because we are supposed to be a country with unity and we are supposed to be free but you can’t be free if you don’t have the same rights as everyone,” said Tabitha Jamison. “I can’t breathe is so powerful because what possesses you to push so hard on someone’s neck until they couldn’t breathe. You have authority to protect, serve and help us but it doesn’t mean to kill us.”

Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park, said, “World events have brought us to this point from the anniversary of Dr. King’s dream and you realize that after 57 years you still have African Americans living a nightmare.

“I am glad that you have so many professional athletes who are saying that we are not going to entertain while on the flip side we are looking at all of the pain in the street,” Davis said. “How is it that we can see a man gunned down, shot seven times in the back and you can have a 17-year-old white boy who can walk with a gun and hold his hands in the air with no sense of concern.”

Instead of simply protesting, the members of First Baptist Church of Highland Park organized a carpool that went throughout the neighborhood to register people to vote. Davis said when church organizers did their homework, they learned the depth of the election problem.

“We are going to take our car caravan to a specific community because we learned that only 30 percent of the people voted in the last election. Those kinds of things have to change,” Davis said. “We have to bridge the gap from dreams to reality.”

Rev. Rachel Boyd, social justice minister at First Baptist Church of Highland Park, said, “Rev. Sharpton and the National Action Network [were] downtown celebrating the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. Our effort is to make sure that people are informed of the issues and the options and to excite some sense of urgency regarding these matters and to allow everyone to play some role in making a change.”

Todd Coogan, regional census manager for Maryland, said that the U.S. Census Bureau is in the phase of the census, which takes place every decade, of going house to house. “We have to try reach people the best way that we can through the month of September.”

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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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