AME Church Leaders Organize for Justice

Photo above: Bishop John R. Bryant Senior, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (submitted photo)
Photo above: Bishop John R. Bryant Senior, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (submitted photo)

Flanked by images of the nine men and women at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and the four little girls killed in the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., among other victims of racial violence, a coalition of Black Methodist leaders stepped squarely into the current fight for racial justice. 

The coalition announced its social and political goals via a “Liberty and Justice for All” press conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 2.

“We … are complicit due to our lack of follow-through. God alerted us in March of 2010 when we gathered in Columbia, South Carolina to sound the alarm regarding the plight of African American males. Prior to Trayvon [Martin], prior to Eric Garner, prior to Michael Brown,” said Rev. Staccato Powell of Grace A.M.E. Zion Church in Raleigh, N.C.

“We were saying this then. However, to our own shame and detriment, we confess the lack of follow-through. We wrote the check, but failed to deposit the resources to make it a negotiable instrument of fact.”

Comprised of representatives from the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion), and Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) churches, the coalition hopes to influence federal, state, and local governments in changing biased and discriminatory policies. It also aims to call the faith community to political action.

About 150 clergy members, faith professionals, National Pan-Hellenic Council members, media, and more – including Black Lives Matter affiliates and a relative of Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, one of the Charleston Nine victims – attended the press conference.

At the event, A.M.E., A.M.E. Zion, and C.M.E faith leaders outlined a list of political demands, with criminal justice reform chief among them. Others included a reversal of biased drug laws, body cameras for all law enforcement and deployment of special prosecutors in cases when police kill unarmed civilians.

Other action areas included education reform, economic justice, gun control, and a restoration of broad voting rights.

In tandem with its grassroots political approach, the coalition aims to have this agenda addressed during the 2016 presidential campaign. In November, Allen University in Columbia, S.C., a historically black university founded by A.M.E. church leaders – will host a Presidential Justice Forum in which all candidates will be invited to present their criminal justice platforms. Additionally, the presumed nominees of both parties will be invited to the general conferences of the A.M.E. and A.M.E. Zion churches in July 2016.

Coalition co-convener Bishop Reginald T. Jackson of the A.M.E. Church, who is based in northern New Jersey, announced that the coalition would be sending letters this month to request meetings with congressional party leaders.

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Source: Winston Salem Chronicle | Jazelle Hunt

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