Members of the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc. (PNBC) led a throng of demonstrators in D.C. on Monday as the U.S. Senate began hearings on the nomination of Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
As senators officially began hearings on the nomination of Jackson, a chorus of civil rights leaders and pastors marched and spoke on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in support of her confirmation, which would make her the first Black female justice.
“We are here today to stand up against voter suppression and we are also here to show our support for President Biden’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rev. George Gilbert Jr., a member of the Social Action Committee of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, told The Informer before the rally. “We believe that our Congress, Senate and the president can work together can work together to break down the walls of systematic racism.”
During opening speeches at the hearing on Capitol Hill, Democratic and Republican senators spoke well of Jackson. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) looked at her and said, “You writing a new page in the history of America.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday’s hearing was “off to a better start than we have had in the past,” while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lauded Jackson’s “strong credentials,” which range from being the first former public defender to graduating from Harvard Law School.
Rev. Dr. David Peoples, president of the 2.5 million-member PNBC, also took part in Monday’s rally, saying it is time for the organization to “take up the causes for social justice.”
“It is in our DNA to speak up and speak out for social justice and the rights of our people,” said Peoples, 49, of Lexington, Ky., who succeeded the late Rev. Dr. Timothy Stewart, pastor of the historic Bethel Baptist Church in Nassau, Bahamas, as PNBC president after his death on Sept. 17.
Peoples wrote in the board’s report that while Stewart’s death “hurt all of our hearts … we know that God will see us through.” To make this journey, Peoples will be assisted by several leaders that include 1st Vice President Keith W. Byrd and General Secretary A. Wayne Johnson.
“We can’t just rest on our laurels,” Peoples said in an interview with The Informer. “They fought a good fight but it’s our time. It is not about a moment, it’s a movement.”
One of the most important developments during the PNBC board meeting was the organization of its Social Action Committee that will be organizing various events across the country.
“We are focusing on voting rights and our primary focus is on those states that we flipped from red to purple in the most recent election,” said Gilbert, pastor of the Holy Trinity Baptist Church of Washington D.C.
“As pastors of African American congregations, we have been the authentic representation of Jesus Christ,” Gilbert said. “No other group has been through what we have been through.”
In addition to being the 1st vice president of the PNBC, Byrd is pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where then-President Barack Obama attended services with Byrd and his large congregation during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend in 2012.
But in today’s ever-contentious political climate, Senate Democrats have been unable to move legislation to bolster voting rights even with a slim majority, because two Democrats — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — have refused to vote with their party on the matter.
“We must be totally committed to advancing the kingdom of agenda, through fellowship, progress, service and peace, Indeed,” Byrd wrote in the board meeting magazine earlier this year. “It is time for the maximization of our potential.”