Thursday, November 2, 2017
Durham black clergy endorse Farad Ali for mayor
Jerome Washington, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, stood behind a podium wearing a three-piece blue suit. It was the conventional dress and posture for a Sunday sermon. Like John the Baptist, Washington, challenged a congregation gathered away from the house of worship.
The message was get out and vote. The congregation was a group of local black pastors assembled at Forest Hills Park.
“In the life of the African American church, social justice has been central, and it is the voice of the preacher - sometimes popular, sometimes not popular- that has guided people,” Washington said during his benediction. “With that in mind, these men and women have come together to say to Durham: we need to come out, we need to vote. We need to vote for our future.”
Washington called the group “Ministers United”. It’s the name given for the occasion. There are no bylaws to solidify the group’s mission statement. They had one goal – to get people to vote for Ali. It’s the first time in a long time that black clergy have united to endorse a candidate for local office.
“History is watching us. The nation is watching us. God is watching us.” Washington said. “There’s too much at stake.”
The men and women behind Washington nodded like parishioners on Sunday during the peak of a sermon. Like a congregation that has witnessed the good mingled with the bad, they stood like their faith required them to challenge the masses.
“Downtown may be on the rise, but there are other things at stake, “Washington said. “There are too many without jobs. There are neighborhoods that need special attention and that special attention does not mean crowding out and forcing out the least.”
In the crowd were two political veterans – Michael Page, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and former member of the Durham Public School Board and Board of County Commissioners and Frederick Davis, pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church and former member of the Durham Public School Board.
“I think it’s paramount in this juncture of Durham’s history that clergy not only show this unified base, but that we educate our congregations so that they can make the best voting decision,” said William-Hazel Height, pastor of Greater Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church. “I don’t tell them who to vote for, but I lay out the parameters to make the best decision, and I believe Farad Ali is the best decision.”
Washington said endorsing Ali is easy because he sees him at church when Ali’s not worshipping with his congregation at Asbury Temple United Methodist Church or with his family at Immaculate Catholic Church.
“I’ve spoken with many of these pastor’s individually about how unity can bring us together in so many ways,” Ali said. “We should all share in the prosperity. We should not be talking about some areas of our city that are growing, some people that are growing or some buildings that are growing, but we should all share in that prosperity.”
Greg Hardy, president of Tabernacle of Redeemed, said he has known Ali since playing Pee Wee Football together,
“It is important for Durham to see us together as clergy, as men and women of faith to encourage our community to make a difference by getting out to vote,” Hardy said. “We support Ali’s vision, because he is the man we believe can get us to where we need to go. All of Durham, not just those who are well off, but those who are marginalized
Washington said his message to his congregation on Sunday will be a challenge to vote. Many of the ministers mourned the apathy of black voters.
“Why should we have to remind them of the sacrifices made for them to vote, Percy Chase, pastor of Community Baptist Church, said. “People gave up their lives so we can vote.”
The congregation of clergy went their separate ways inspired by the gospel of get out the vote. Washington’s message about the future of Durham was heard like an old Bible story. Maybe it was the one about the children of the Israelites who forgot what the Lord had done. Maybe it was the one about the years of exile after they took things for granted.
Inspired by the spirit of their peers, these black preachers are prepared to do what they do best on Sunday morning.
Go tell that mountain to move out of our way.