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Local Pastors Unite as a Voice and Resource

By Tyronda James

Faith Leaders left to right, D. Christopher Rourk, of Greater Adams St. COGBF, Melvin Cross, of GloryHouse International Church, James C. Simmons, of BABER African Methodist Episcopal Church,
Bishop Jeffrey Melvin, of Powerhouse Glory. Photo by Tyronda James/Minority Reporter Media Group Printing & Publishing.

The Faith Leaders Caucus wants to be an inspiring voice in the Black community and encourages the research candidates and informed voting on the swiftly approaching Nov. 3 Election Day. 

“The black church is the voice of black Rochester,” stated the Reverend Derrill Blue, pastor of Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.

“We, senior pastors from predominantly black churches across Rochester, have decided to unite our voices to address institutions and elected officials that oppress our people.” 

The Faith Leaders Caucus is over 30 predominantly Black churches from all over the city of Rochester.

Their mission is to be “a prophetic voice of Monroe County calling out policies, institutions, and structures that oppress, hold elected officials accountable, advocates on behalf of our people, and works for social transformation, justice, and spiritual wholeness,” according to a press statement.

Rev. James C. Simmons, pastor of Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church said this election “will be one of the most consequential elections in our lifetime” and wants to inspire the black community to make informed judgements and not fall into “blind partisanship.” 

Simmons said this nation’s African Americans are reliable democratic voters and that “blind partisanship has caused African Americans to elect those who do not represent black interests or black concerns.”

“It has caused us to elect persons who declare “Black Lives Matter” in public but work behind the scenes to silence black politicians.” 

He said blind partisanship also begins to impact local politics.  The caucus wants community members to seek area faith leaders of the Faith Leader’s Roundtable regarding candidate positions if needed. They encourage confirming poll locations in advance and adhere to all election deadlines. 

Simmons said blind loyalty among the black community has resulted in the election of candidates who do not represent the interests of black people.  He spoke of local white politicians, such as County Executive Adam Bello and Rachel Barnhart.

He also refenced, U. S. Representative Joseph Morelle, who Legislator Sabrina La Mar said attempted to use his position and power to get her fired from her job. Simmons said it’s unfortunate that “we have elected candidates who work against us.” 

Simmons said black Rochester should be wise about who they elect. “Our fore-parents marched, shed blood, endured poll taxes, withstood fire hoses, and even died so that we could vote,” Simmons said. “Be wise. It is better to write in a candidate than vote for “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

Simmons said the coming together of faith leaders was needed to be a voice, to educate, to act as resource and encouragement and to advocate for black people. 

“We are one of the most powerful forces in the city of Rochester and Monroe County. We are the black church we’ve been here for centuries and we will be here for a long time coming,” noted Simmons. 

Simmons said the caucus recognizes the role that the black church has played and always will play. 

“The African American church has always been the voice of the black community, Simmons said. “And we’ve discovered that we have more strength together than we do apart!” 

The meeting was held after the Faith Leaders met with the new Interim Police Chief, Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, to hear her plans for RPD moving forward and to share their own concerns, however; details of the conversation were not disclosed.