By Bonnie K. Goodman
Republican nominee Donald Trump made his first significant effort to reach out to black voters in his first address to a predominantly African American audience. Trump spoke to members of the Great Faith Ministries, a church in Detroit on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. In his speech, Trump appeared more “subdued” and spoke of unity, claiming again that the GOP was the party of the president and great emancipator Abraham Lincoln.
Trump spoke from prepared remarks as opposed to off the cuff comments at his usual campaign rallies. The GOP nominee attempted to invoke history with his address; Trump expressed, “For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of this country. So true. The African-American faith community has been one of God’s greatest gifts to America and its people.”
The GOP nominee also invoked the first president elected from the Republican Party; Trump conveyed emotionally, “Becoming the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln … has been the greatest honor of my life. It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but, more importantly, the future of the country.”
Like Lincoln, Trump tried to call for unity, saying, “Our nation is too divided. We talk past each other and not to each other. And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what’s going on. I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways.”
The GOP nominee wants to improve the economy in ways that will benefit the nation’s African Americans. Trump said, “I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so we can also remedy economics so African-American communities can benefit economically through jobs and income.”
The GOP nominee promised to increase employment and wages, telling the audience, “When I see wages falling, people out of work, I know the hardships this inflicts and I am determined to do something about it. I will do something about it. I do get things done, I will tell you. I’m going to get things done.”
Concluding, Trump expressed, “I believe we need a civil rights agenda for our time,” and then the GOP nominee cited 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” In the end, Trump agreed, saying, “That’s so true.”
After Trump had finished, the nondenominational church’s Bishop Wayne Jackson gave Trump a Jewish prayer shawl (Tallit) from Israel and draped it over Trump’s shoulders. Then Jackson indicated, “This is a prayer shawl straight from Israel. Whenever you’re flying from coast to coast — I know you just came back from Mexico and you’ll be flying from city to city — there is an anointing. And anointing is the power of God,”
Continuing Jackson said, “It’s going to be sometimes in your life that you’re going to feel forsaken, you’re going to feel down, but the anointing is going to lift you up. I prayed over this personally and I fasted over it, and I wanted to just put this on you.” Afterward, Trump “swayed” as the choir sang.
Trump later toured South Detroit with former GOP candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Carson is one of Trump’s top campaign surrogates. The nominee wanted to see neighborhoods that had been affected by economic downturns that have plagued the city.
The GOP also taped an interview with Bishop Jackson that will be airing next week on Impact Network, which is founded by African American Christians. The interview has caused some controversy because the campaign asked for the questions beforehand. The bishop, however, praised Trump on his responses and his outreach efforts.
Trump is trying to reach to African American voters in a more personal way contrasting himself from his previous perceived ambivalence and what he calls opponent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s “bigoted” view that just sees African Americans as a ticket to more votes come election day. Afterward, in the evening the Trump campaign issued a statement outlining his civil rights agenda that includes “public safety, education and job security.”
Responses among those who attended were positive but outside of the church protesters objected to Trump’s visit. Lawrence Glass, “the president of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity,” led the demonstrators calling what Trump spews a “message of fear and hate.”