Georgia’s Black Churches Join Forces to Activate Voters in Crucial Election

Two major Black church groups in Georgia are joining forces for the first time to rally Black voters in the key battleground state ahead of the upcoming November presidential election.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church are joining forces to launch a get-out-the-vote program in Georgia. With a combined total of over 140,000 parishioners in the state, these two congregations aim to pool their resources and increase voter turnout. The announcement for this initiative is scheduled to take place on Monday at the Georgia Capitol.

In Georgia, they are focusing their efforts on reinvigorating the Black church as a potent force for driving voter turnout. This comes at a time when national polls indicate a lack of political momentum among Black Americans, as well as waning enthusiasm for President Joe Biden, whose ascent to the White House was facilitated by their backing.

For many years, both churches have been actively advocating for the expansion and protection of civil rights and voting rights throughout the nation. However, they have typically operated independently without collaborating on their messaging or pooling their resources.

Bishops Reginald Jackson and Thomas Brown Sr., who are leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, have recognized the significance of this year’s election and the recent laws that have limited voting rights and restructured congressional districts in Georgia. These developments have prompted them to join forces and work together towards a common objective.

Brown, the leader of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia, emphasized the seriousness and urgency of the situation. He stressed the need for strong leadership and empowerment within the community, especially in rural areas. Brown emphasized the importance of being present and actively engaged in addressing the challenges faced by the people on the ground.

According to him, there was a stronger unity among churches across different denominations during the late ’60s, especially in the Civil Rights Movement. However, he believes that this sense of solidarity has diminished over time, particularly after significant progress was made.

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The churches, whose congregants primarily support the Democratic party, are actively advocating for change. This effort is particularly significant as President Biden faces challenges in regaining support among Black voters. According to exit polls from the 2020 election, Donald Trump only secured 11% of the Black vote in Georgia. However, a poll conducted by The New York Times in October revealed that Trump’s support among these voters increased to 19% in the state.

“We recognized the significance of this election and the prevailing narrative that suggests a lack of motivation among Black voters, and even a decision by some not to vote. In light of this, we felt compelled to take a united and formal stand,” stated Jackson, who leads over 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.

Church leaders have emphasized the need for a unified voice by allocating a modest budget of $200,000 to $500,000 for the voting program. The intention is to enable the two churches to speak with one clear and cohesive message.

Several other faith groups within the Black community are actively engaged in voter mobilization efforts this year.

The Poor People’s Campaign, the economic justice coalition inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is launching a 30-state voter engagement campaign next month, as announced by the Rev. William J. Barber II.

In December, the National Action Network and the Conference of National Black Churches made a significant announcement. They revealed their new collaborative initiative, a get-out-the-vote campaign. However, this campaign aims to go beyond just motivating people to vote. It also seeks to address urgent community needs, such as ensuring access to vaccinations.

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Black churches have long played a crucial role in mobilizing Black voters, serving as a driving force behind Democratic triumphs. Their collective efforts in Georgia during the 2020 elections helped President Biden secure a victory and turn the state blue. These churches once again proved instrumental in the subsequent Senate campaigns of 2021 and 2022, contributing to the Democrats’ success.

The cooperation between the two churches is a direct response to the influential political network of predominantly white, conservative evangelical churches in Georgia and beyond. These churches, with their predominantly Republican congregants, have had a significant impact on shaping the party’s policy goals for many years. In fact, evangelical denominations in Georgia make up more than 50% of all Christian churches, while historically Black churches account for only 16%, as reported by a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

According to Jackson, it is unfortunate that the Black church has not been as dedicated or unwavering in its efforts to inspire and educate the community about the issues that impact them over the past few decades. He finds it particularly frustrating that white evangelicals have taken advantage of this situation, leading many individuals towards what he considers to be an un-Christian way of thinking.

In the 2020 election, Jackson led the way in implementing a program known as Operation Voter Turnout. This initiative placed a strong emphasis on educating voters, organizing registration drives, providing assistance with absentee ballots, and coordinating efforts for Sunday voting.

The lessons learned from that initiative will now be shared with the congregations of both churches. They have developed a comprehensive program that includes regular listening sessions on politics and workshops on voting. Additionally, they will assist congregants in creating personal voter plans, encouraging them to vote and persuading their families to do the same. They will also conduct weekly voter registration drives.

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Cheryl Davenport Dozier, who is involved in coordinating civic engagement efforts for the AME Church in Georgia, mentioned that voter registration will occur every Sunday in their churches. Additionally, in rural communities that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19, they are actively conducting outreach initiatives.

According to her, there are times when as many as 100 people visit, and they even provide voter registration forms to ensure outreach to the individuals. She also emphasized that despite some attendees being homeless, they still retain their right to vote.

Brown emphasized the significance of the listening sessions in helping church leaders comprehend the reasons behind the apathy felt by certain Black voters in the state.

In his words, he emphasized the importance of engaging in meaningful conversations with people on the ground to understand their concerns and frustrations with the Biden administration or any other administration. He believes that it is not enough to simply read about apathy and disgruntlement; instead, there is a need for listening sessions where individuals can openly discuss their grievances and disappointments. By addressing these issues with factual information and a commitment to finding solutions, he aims to bring about resolution and address the dissatisfactions that exist.

Leaders in both churches are confident that there is still an opportunity to revitalize one of Georgia’s most influential voting groups.

“The Rev. Willie J. Barber II, who is also involved in civic engagement efforts for the AME Church in Georgia, stresses that Black people do have faith in the existing institutions designed to safeguard their rights. However, there is an underlying fear that these protections could be undermined or eroded. The pressing question then becomes: how can we prevent such a scenario and ensure the preservation of democracy for the well-being of our community?”

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