It’s estimated that 5 million registered voters will be disenfranchised in the 2012 election by laws passed in some states and proposed in others that make it harder to vote, mainly by requiring government-issued I.D. cards, as well as limiting early voting days. Since the Republican-led attacks on voter rights primarily target African-Americans, other minorities, poor folks, students and the elderly, it only makes sense for the foundation of the Black community to get involved. That’s the Black Church.
Recently Roland Martin spoke with AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie and Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III, of Dallas, Texas, about what pastors need to do to inspire political action.
REV. FREDERICK HAYNES: You have a group that runs away from public policy issues as if their only responsibility is to make sure folk get rich. Or, you have another group – they just are so spiritual, they don’t deal with social issues that people face. And then you have here and there some people who’re trying to raise issues that affect our people every, single day. And that bothers me, because how can you preach to me on Sundays about my soul, but you never deal with the issues that confront me once I leave that church? And until we recognize – and I – and I really believe, Roland, that the crisis in the economy. The crisis in our community is a vehicle that God can use to help us to step up as a Church and say, “Hey, these are issues your people are dealing with. Deal with them, or you’re going out of business.”
BISHOP VASHTI MCKENZIE: The voices are there. The pastors, the rabbis, the – everyone is talking, but they’re not getting a platform from where to talk from. Everybody goes to the squeaky wheel, the one who wants to do the – to – you know, to say the – the word that – that makes the headline, that – that keeps viewers watching. But, really, the microphone is not in the face of intelligent, wise people who can say, “Now is the time to speak up, stand up, shout up, do whatever is necessary; because we are seeing things that tell us that people really are messing with their lives. They’re playing with the future of our children, and they’re willing to let this country go straight down, rather than do what is right.”
REV. HAYNES: What does it say about the fact that we have so many hurting people? You have more people now in poverty than we’ve had in almost 30 years. On top of – and – and – and it’s not just Black people, but all people are suffering. On top of that, this mass incarceration piece. What happened with Troy Davis – he’s not the only one. He said, “Do-” – “Don’t forget the other Troy Davises before and after me.” And so we have all of these issues our people in our pews are dealing with.
BISHOP MCKENZIE: I think we all need to come together – the NAACP, the Urban League, the church community, faith community all across our country. We need to come together. We need to come back to Washington. Remember Martin King – it was a “Poor People’s March,” poor people coming – we need to come to the steps of Congress and say, “We want action. We want it now. Stop playing with our lives.”
REV. HAYNES: And check this. It’s real biblical. Isaiah 58, what does God say? “I’m sick of your worship. I’m sick of your praising me. You want to show me fasting and praying? Here’s what you do. Set free those who are bound. Feed those who are hungry.” That’s fasting and praying. That’s the Bible that we’ve edited out.
BISHOP MCKENZIE: Go to your congressperson, sit in their office and say, “Look. I need you to take action on something. Don’t just play dead or play with our lives.” Yes, they will pay attention to you. And if they don’t pay attention to you, then you know what you can do? You can express yourself at the polls. You can express yourself with your vote. That’s what our ancestors died for – so that we can cast that vote.
And as you’ve seen in past elections, sometimes all you need is one vote.
MR. MARTIN: And just this year, 14 states enacted 21 measures requiring individuals to present photo identification or proof of citizenship to vote, eliminating same-day registration, reducing early voting and increasing regulations for voter registration drives. The attack on your voting rights will continue in 2012. We want to make sure you know the law in your state so you won’t be left out.