By Hamil R. Harris, Special to the AFRO
President Donald Trump recently met with African American pastors at the White House that is supposed be part of a larger effort to build relationships and craft an urban agenda.
The meeting between Trump and about 20 pastors lasted nearly two hours. It was attended by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner who has been leading an effort to build bridges in the African-American community. Last month, his wife, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka visited Prince George’s Community College to promote science and technology.
Bishop Harry Jackson, Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville has been one of the few faith leaders of color to meet with Trump since he was elected and Jackson was upbeat after his latest meeting.
“The purpose of the meeting was to talk about how faith leaders can work with the government to revitalize urban areas across the country,” Jackson told the AFRO. “I think he is ready to work with Black leadership and he has high regard for the Black clergy.”
Jackson said the President and the pastors talked about several things including creating more programs for people who are incarcerated after they come home prison because “this is one of the top Civil Rights issues today.”
Darrell Scott, an African-American pastor from Ohio, was also at the meeting. He praised Trump for his efforts to create jobs and opportunities for people getting out of prison and needing a second chance in life.
“This is probably the most proactive administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime,” Scott told the group according to the Associated Press. “This is probably going [to] be … the most pro-Black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.”
Scott’s comments come even though Trump has not met with many African-American leaders since being in the White House. One of his top aides, Omarosa Manigault, left under a cloud; and Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Ben Carson has not yet unveiled any major program, save that he was raising the cost of rent in public housing.
In addition, Trump has been highly critical of African-American icons doing positive things in the community like LeBron James. Trump went so far that even First Lady Melania Trump had to push back last week.
Jackson said Carson didn’t attend the meeting and leaders of national religious organizations like the Progressive National Baptist Convention or the NAACP were also not present even though they have typically met with previous White House administrations.
Earlier this year, Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, and Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner and Jim Wallis, both of Sojourners Magazine, led several hundred pastors on a march from the National City Christian Church to the White House. The procession concluded with calling on President Trump to do more on a variety of issues.
Rev. William Lamar, Pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Church, participated in that event and he had nothing good to say about Trump’s meeting with the ministers.
“The Black ministers who met with Donald Trump denigrated the divine and ancestral legacy of the Black churches in America and they dishonored the ministries of Jesus Christ, the prophets, and those sent by God,” Lamar told the AFRO. “Jesus would have met with Trump. Jesus would have sat at the table with Trump. But Jesus would have turned over the damn tables. That table is the table of kleptocratic capitalism, that table is the table of the erosion of voting rights, that table is the table of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich by transferring wealth from the bottom to the top.”
But Jackson sees things differently.
“It’s hard to influence people from the outside, but if we start a relationship we can win people,” Jackson told the AFRO. “Our agenda is neither Democrat nor Republican, it is humanitarian. We are not trying to follow elephants or donkey,s but Jesus, the Lamb of God.”
Jackson says going forward he anticipates that the President will visit an African-American church and launch more efforts to build bonds in the community.
But Lamar still doesn’t see what was accomplished. “These ministers are just a little worse than Black preachers who sit with Democrats and refuse to demand justice. We sit with emperors, not to take pictures, but to demand the God’s people be free. These preachers know the church, they know Black respectability, they know American civil religion, but they do not know the prophetic tradition of the Black church and they do not know the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.”