As America prepares to return to the polls for midterm elections amid racial tensions, continued economic inequities and a president who appears to embrace racism and shun truth, thousands of Black church leaders and parishioners answered a “Call to Conscience/Day of Action” last week, intended to send a message to the White House and beyond.
“Racism is not dead in America,” said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chair of the Conference of National Black Churches, preaching at a worship service the night before a mass rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House Sept. 6. “As a matter of fact, it’s not even sick. It doesn’t even have a cold. We live in one of the most racist times in the history of this country. In spite of the fact that we’ve come through slavery. There’s nothing good about slavery. But slavery provided a forum wherein our oppressors were visible and we could see them. They were touchable. What makes the difficulties of this time is our oppressors are invisible.”
The worship service, intended to stir up those planning to attend the rally, was held at Reid Temple AME Church.
“Tomorrow at Lafayette Park, we not only want the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—who is living in the hands that Black hands built—we not only want him to see us we want him to hear us,” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson told the congregation. Jackson, president of the Council of AME Bishops, is the visionary who called the Day of Action.
The high-spirited two-day event drew hundreds to a daylong issues symposium before the worship service that drew more than a thousand. After the rally the next day, bishops and church leaders traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with senators and representatives. The activities recalled a 1960s-type movement, an awakening of sorts.