By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Each spring and fall, before COVID-19 caused them to go virtual, politicians habitually descended on the Black community, notably the Black churches, civic league meetings and fraternity gatherings in hope of generating interest in their candidacy for office.
At times pastors will allow them to “deliver a few words” to the congregation and perhaps shake a few hands and partake in the worship service before sprinting off to the next sanctuary.
African American voters are the most reliable members of the Black Church. They are also the reliable voting bloc for state, local, and national Democratic party
Republicans have yet to develop a message or recruit candidates viable enough to receive such support from the Black community.
But during recent election cycles, local Black pastors and civic leaders have voiced concern
about the pre-election courting of Black voters in churches or in the community in general.
There is a growing sentiment that politicians, notably Democrats, may be taking the large and reliable Black voter bloc for
granted, especially when legislators’ actions do not translate into genuine support or remedies for issues facing the Black community.
So recently the members of the Tidewater Metro Ministers’ Conference issued a Manifesto, which places politicians on notice about this declaration.
The 852-word document, approved unanimously during the conference’s late December meeting, outlines what the ministers and other Black groups should expect going forward from candidates who approach their congregations for support.
The manifesto declares that the candidates and elected officials must be strong advocates of policies and laws which positively address the issues of people of all levels in the Black community.
These include equity in employment, a living wage, judicial and policing reforms, voter education and protection, and educational equality.
“When it is election time and they need our vote, politicians come to our churches and fellowship,” said Rev. Dr. Keith I. Jones, the
Senior Pastor of Norfolk’s Shiloh Baptist Church and President of the Conference.
“They also approach our fraternities, sororities civic leagues, and other groups for their vote and support,” said Jones. “But once the election is over, we do not see or hear from them. They do not keep us informed about their activities on issues, seek our input, seek feedback or advice.”
“They are simply taking our vote for granted,” said Jones. “It is time for this to stop. The Black Ministers are issuing this Manifesto which shows our stand on this issue. Also, we encourage other civil rights groups like the NAACP, other religious organizations, and civic
leagues to do the same.”
Called the “Ministers’ Manifesto of the Tidewater Metro Ministers’ Conference” the pastors note “we join together our voices in humble recognition that God has called each of us in prophetic urgency to speak with a unified voice on the behalf of the misrepresented
and underrepresented people of our surroundings communities.”
The manifesto, the pastors wrote, represents “our singular goal” to assure that “elected and appointed leaders truly represent the interests and the need of those whom they serve.”
Calling upon other organizations in the Black community the document notes “we pledge our energies to make this work and see as
our allies those who join us in these causes.”
The seed of inspiration for the manifesto is planted in the Biblical passage in Luke 4:17-19 which references “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the
captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
One passage in the document references an agenda list that can be used to vet and endorse each candidate.
The Ministers’ Conference has only endorsed a political candidate once in its history and has since held to a policy not to do so as a group.
But Jones said this does not deter individual pastors from endorsing a candidate of
either party based on their respect of the provisions of the Manifesto.
“…disparities in wealth, healthcare, housing, and education are all symptomatic of sinful brokenness and an absence of Godly leadership” and must be addressed, asserts the Manifesto.