Easter Sunday is a sacred day in the Christian tradition. In the black church, it is often a day of celebration, with full capacity attendance for many congregations. This Easter, a group of black ministers are planning to take advantage of those numbers to combat voter ID laws by registering one million voters in the pews.
The Empowerment Movement, led by Rev. Jamal Bryant, stated in a press release that there are an estimated 500,000 black churches in the United States and over five million unregistered voters. The campaign was organized when Bryant met with other Baltimore-area ministers to discuss issues of mass incarceration, high unemployment, and restrictive voter ID laws. The group resolved to fight new voting laws that often keep elderly, young and black voters from casting ballots.
Nearly 31 states currently require voters to produce identification at the polls, something the NAACP considers to be a violation of civil rights.
“In 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, a Baptist, Rev. Joseph Lowery, a United Methodist, and Andy Young, a Disciples of Christ preacher, walked out of an AME Church and marched together in Selma for voting rights,” said Rev. Bryant in a Black America Web interview, finding semblance in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Empowerment Movement was reportedly launched with the support of the AME Church, Rep. Elijah Cummings, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law.
According to the press release, “Their mission is a massive undertaking, with a goal to register one million voters on one day, Easter, April 8, 2012, making Guinness World Book history for democracy, by challenging every black church in the United States to register 20 people on that day.”
Bryant said that if the group falls short of its goal, it would still be a powerful statement for the black church. Bryant told the Huffington Post that “The first-day approach would be a 21st century approach to [the Southern Christian Leadership Committee]: we’d send people out [to help make up the difference] on the ground.”
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey on Twitter at @idxr