During this election season, we must vote for recognizing and honoring the humanity of all people. We must vote for a return of facts and truth. We must vote to survive.
Far too many people in this country and in Memphis risked and lost their lives so we could exercise our right to vote. And so exercise it we must. Voting is our only way to bring an end to the current era of hostility, brutality, and death-dealing governance that threatens even more lives.
In truth, voting this election season is a matter of survival. The survival of our democracy and our liberties. The survival of millions living under the threat of a pandemic running rampant. And the survival of the rights that all of us who have fought for equality have earned the hard way.
Voting is also a matter of morality
That’s why the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis – a new coalition that believes faith leaders have a moral obligation to advocate for economic empowerment, civic engagement, and criminal justice reform – will be holding “Turn Out Memphis” on Saturday, October 24, beginning at 10 a.m.
“Turn Out Memphis” is an invitation to meet Black Memphis pastors at one of six churches around town that also serve as polling places, and receive our encouragement and support as you participate in early voting.
We know early voting lines have been out the door and around the block. On the one hand, we’re heartened by the will and righteousness of so many people showing their determination to stand in line no matter how long it takes.
Yet these long lines are also is an insult to the democratic process we are in danger of losing. These lines are meant to discourage us. They are meant to keep us away. They are meant to take us only so far as registration – but not to activation.
Fellow Memphians, the Black Clergy Collaborative is calling you to faith in action! Registration is not enough. Intention is not enough. We must follow in the footsteps of the men and women down through the centuries who fought for our right to vote. We must follow them straight to the polls.
I am reminded of Rabbi Abraham Heschel who, upon returning from the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery and being asking if he’d found time to pray, replied, “I prayed with my feet.”
It is humbling to recall our heroes of the past. It is humbling to live and work in the city forever identified with the blood that was shed to win basic human dignity for Black Americans.
There’s too much at stake not to vote
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot assume time will always take us forward – away from the injustices of the past. The Black Clergy Collaborative is shaking off complacency, proclaiming by our formation that we belong on the front lines of the fight to keep moving on lest we wind up getting pushed back. That’s what “Turn Out Memphis” is all about. That’s what October 24 is all about.
There is too much at stake for Memphis not to vote – on October 24 and on through November 3. We must vote for solutions to the pressing social justice issues of our own time – beginning with systemic racism, especially in the criminal justice system.
We must vote for a federal response to the pandemic and for a return to civility. We must vote for recognizing and honoring the humanity of all people. We must vote for a return of facts and truth. We must vote to survive.
So come on out Saturday and join us at any one of these locations:
Abundant Grace Fellowship Church, Anointed Temple of Praise, Mississippi Blvd Family Life Center, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Pursuit of God Church, and Riverside Missionary Baptist Church.
If you have questions, call 901-257-9133 or email BlackClergyCollaborative@gmail.com.
In the meantime, please join me in paraphrasing a beloved Negro spiritual, adapted for today: We Shall Move!
We shall and we must.
Jason Turner is the senior pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.