Black church sends message to Trump White House in two-day ‘Call to Conscience’

HAZEL TRICE EDNEY and HAMIL HARRIS | 9/13/2018, midnight
As America prepares to return to the polls for midterm elections amid racial tensions, continued economic inequities and a president ...
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chair of the Conference of National Black Churches Photo courtesy of Reid Temple AME Church

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.

“There’s one thing that’s worse than slavery,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the worship service. “That’s to adjust to it. A slave should be maladjusted. It was hard to wake us up until Trump came along. Trump is nothing but a wake-up call.”

Richardson, the keynote speaker at the worship service, agreed that Trump is only temporary. But he warned, “He speaks for the oppressors. He speaks for the haters. We need to be aware that the nature of our battle. We will eliminate 45. But there’ll be some young aspiring 45s. They will be inspired by his conduct, who’ll want to grow up and be like him. We must watch for those who are on the horizon, who must come this way.”

Franklyn pointed out that African-Americans are statistically worse off than any other racial group in every social category in America. He then paralleled the current pains of Black people to those suffered by the Children of Israel in the Book of Jeremiah as they suffered an economic crisis.

Paraphrasing the Prophet Jeremiah, he said, “The spring harvest has past and the summer has ended and though we have planted, there has been no harvest. When you do not plant it is unreasonable to expect a harvest, but when you plant you ought to expect a harvest.” Citing how Black people led in building America through fighting in wars and even building the White House and U. S. Capitol buildings, he said, “We, African-Americans, have planted. We didn’t just show up here and volunteer. We have been planting.”