CHARLOTTE, N. C. - A recent national poll showed that among likely black voters President Obama would receive at least 95 percent of the vote and Mitt Romney would get less than one percent of this demographic.
A slam dunk, right?
The problem is in getting a large black voter turnout. The black church, once a hot bed of civil rights and political activity, has seen the emergence of mega-churches whose focus has shifted away from collective involvement in political issues as churches did in the 1950s and '60s.
Rev. Gerald Durley, a tall, handsome African American with a dark blue hue to his skin tone, cast an impressive presence in the early morning hours in downtown Charlotte yesterday.
Once a young athlete who competed along side Olympian high jumper Bob Beamon, Durley recently retired as pastor of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. He served there 25 years, and five years prior to that at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the home church of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Durley explained he was in town to participate in a prayer vigil on Obama's behalf.
"We've got too many black preachers telling their congregations not to vote for President Obama," Durley said.
The prayer breakfast is the brainchild of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been in town since Sunday planning this event. Jackson, a member of King's inner circle and Founder of Operation PUSH, hopes he can get black preachers solidly behind the Obama campaign for a second term.
Black preachers stepped back from Obama earlier this year when the president expressed his personal feelings on same-sex marriage, a long held taboo in the black community, in spite of a rather sizable LGBT community.
Obama's views on the subject were eloquently expressed by First Lady Michelle Obama in her address before the Democratic National Convention Tuesday when she said, "... it shouldn't matter who you love."
On Tuesday, Durley reminded convention-goers that he took to the airwaves in Atlanta to blast the hypocrisy of black clegry who fail to hold such strong views towards other biblical prohibitions, such as sexual sins committed by heterosexual adults.
"We are in a deep hole, seemingly without a bottom," Jackson said in that familiar cadence. He is trying to refocus the political debate on presidential politics in the black community in terms that have a more immediate impact on black church congregates.
Mastering the Bill Clinton arithmetic, in the Jacksonian rehtorical style, Jackson said, "Four million jobs lost and four million jobs created, that's an eight-million job swing."
The highlight of the breakfast will be honoring the living civil rights legend, Rev. John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia's 5th Congressional District, a pioneer in voting rights when the vote was being denied to blacks and women.
When asked why John Lewis, Jackson responded simply, with a raised eyebrow, "John Lewis deserves to be honored."
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