The Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins speaks with other faith leaders at a news conference May 15, 2017, in Washington, D.C., responding to the Trump administration’s policies. Photo courtesy of Ray Chen/Office of Public Witness, PCUSA
By Adelle M. Banks
WASHINGTON (RNS) Black clergy, standing in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, declared that President Trump is not living up to his promise of being the “greatest champion” for the nation’s African Americans.
At a news conference Monday (May 15) in front of the United Methodist Building, leaders of congregations and denominations called on fellow African Americans to speak up and urged Congress to vote down proposed plans by the new administration that they believe would help the rich and hurt the sick and the poor.
The Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network, cited proposed budget plans that she said would hinder the progress of children in public and charter schools and Justice Department plans that would especially put African Americans at risk of stricter mandatory sentences.
“The very survival of fellow Americans depends on members of Congress and those in the administration exercising the backbone that is supposed to be part of their leadership,” she said.
The church officials countered Trump’s campaign question — “What do you have to lose?” — to African Americans.
“We are indeed in trouble, we are indeed losing,” said the Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, who criticized the administration’s plans to cut nutrition programs for the poor.
“Every statistic shows that these policies will negatively impact African Americans, poor people, the elderly and the most vulnerable among us. But we refuse to be silent. These policies are not OK.”
The Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, executive director of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Office of Public Witness, said the Black clergy would like to meet with Trump and discuss ways to improve job opportunities, protect voting rights and work to reduce racial divisions in the nation.
And Hawkins had one more request of the president: Stop tweeting,” he said. “Brother, get yourself a good night’s sleep. And if you can’t stop, tweet some good news for the country. We could sure use it.”