Ministers March for Justice to Support Racial Healing

by September 2, 2017

(From left-right) Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA, Martin Luther King, III, 2017 NNPA Lifetime Legacy Award and civil rights leader, and Reverend Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, pose for a photograph near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 2017. Sharpton organized a Ministers March for Justice to support racial healing in the U.S.

Hundreds of clergy from around the country gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall for an interfaith march for justice. Pastors, rabbis, Buddhists, Sikhs and imams joined together to demonstrate against the hate they say has surfaced since Donald Trump became president.

As the group listened to speakers and prepared to march across the Mall to the Department of Justice, their chants alternated between civil rights era songs and those of a more recent vintage, such as “No justice, no peace.” These got especially raucous as the group passed the White House and the Trump hotel.

The protest was organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network to mark the 54th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech. Sharpton dubbed the event the “One thousand ministers march for justice.” He said it was a call by interfaith leaders to end injustice in voting rights, healthcare, law enforcement and education, and to stop a rollback of hard won civil rights by African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women and LGBTQ+ people.

Pastor Marquez Ball, left, and his sons Micah, 14, and Nathan, 9. Pastor Dominique Clarke, right, and his 4-year-old son Dominique Jr. Photo credit: Armando Trull / WAMU

Pastor Marquez Ball is with the Uplift Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland. A Howard University School of Divinity graduate, Ball is one of the pastors who helped organize the event, and said he marched for his two sons.

“If I stay silent, if I’m not woke, then times will be harder for them,” he said. “The reality is that the generation that came before me fought for freedoms, and if I watch those freedoms roll back my children will suffer.”

Pastor Dominique Clarke from Glen Arden carried his 4-year-old son Dominique Jr. on his shoulders while walking down Constitution Ave.He said he came because he is a man of God.

“I’m doing this for me,” said Clarke. “I’m doing this for my family. I’m standing up for what’s right.”

The day began with several prayer breakfasts, including one at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest D.C. One of the young clergymen, Pastor Wallace Baxter of the Second Baptist Church Southwest in District Heights, said he’s concerned about the hatred that has surfaced since President Trump was elected.

“Now is the time that we stand up as millennials, as young clergy, and let our voices be heard,” he said.

After the breakfast, Rev. Sharpton said he welcomes the younger clergy because the movement needs new blood.

“They — on the neo-Nazi side; on the far-right side; on the alt-right side — have raised a generation of young people that they clearly want to put as the vanguard of what I call ‘the new fascism’,” Sharpton said. “We must also have that vanguard ready.”

A separate group of marchers, who are not tied to the National Action Network but who espouse similar views, set out from Charlottesville, Virginia, for a 10-day march to Washington. They are expected to arrive September 6. •

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