Black Baptists seek to mobilize voters

Heads of the major African-American Baptist denominations have launched a joint effort to register and mobilize voters in the upcoming election.

By Bob Allen

The presidents of six historically African-American Baptist denominations announced a partnership Sept. 5 to mobilize their combined 12 million members to vote in the November election.

The “This is My Vote” campaign, announced from the stage at the Sept. 4-7 annual session of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., is in response to “an unprecedented effort to limit access to the ballot box in states across the country,” according to a press release.

“The right to vote is too important to let anyone steal it or suppress it,” said Nelson Rivers, vice president of stakeholder relations for the NAACP, another sponsor. “Voter suppression leads to people oppression.”

Stephen Thurston, president of the National Baptist Convention of America, said African-Americans “have something to vote for” in the upcoming presidential race.

“We are voting because we have in the White House right now a man who has proven himself to be a man that will stand on principle and commit himself to the citizens of America and make a change in all of our lives,” Thurston said.

Bernard Yates, president of the National Primitive Baptist Convention USA, said the Baptist leaders want to prevent a repeat of the 2010 midterm elections, when many black voters who turned out two years earlier to elect President Obama stayed home on Election Day.

“All of us have numbers that are significant, and numbers are voters,” Yates said. “Numbers are important right now. What we need is numbers.”

Also joining the effort were leaders of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention and National Missionary Baptist Convention of America.

“We are non-partisan,” said Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. “We are simply saying to the United States of America and particularly to our people that we have a right to vote and we want to go to the polls Nov. 6 and vote. That is what we are saying.”