BELTSVILLE, Md. – Following the unjust death of George Floyd and a week of protests and violence, Vice President Mike Pence and Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Scott Turner on June 5 joined Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and author of the forthcoming book “A Manifesto: Christian America’s Contract with Minorities,” for a listening session with a
select group of Black and minority leaders representing churches, businesses, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.
Pence’s main goal is to ‘listen and learn’
The Vice President addressed attendees with brief opening remarks, noting his main goal during the event was to listen and learn.
“I couldn’t help but feel that as our nation reels from the tragic death of George Floyd, that a place to start a conversation is a place of worship. It’s the wellspring of our nation’s strength. It’s been the wellspring of our national unity and our steady march toward a more perfect union,” Pence said.
“It will not be enough for us just to heal our economy. We have to heal that which divides by breaking down the barriers to opportunity for African Americans and any American that’s been left behind, so I’m anxious to gain your insights.”
Jackson sees unity as a momentum builder
Jackson, who through The Reconciled Church movement has been actively engaged for many years in leading conversations and working with faith leaders to heal racial divides, equated the current climate following Floyd’s death to the events surrounding the 1955 death of Emmett Till, which led to the start of the civil rights movement.
“His death was almost prophetic and symbolic of a time and season that change had to come. Black and Whites came together to address the civil rights movement, and we found momentum. I think we will similarly find momentum during this time,” said Jackson.
Jackson noted that as a diverse nation, it is vital that every American feel loved and accepted. He stated this is not solely the role of government but requires all three sectors of our country – government, business, and church – uniting together.
“Minorities need to hear that they are valued and that the lives of people really matter,” Jackson said. “It’s not just George Floyd’s death alone. His death is representative of the nearly 400-year history of challenges we’ve had … This administration didn’t create this problem, but it has the opportunity to help us heal.
Reflection of voices; Pence’s reassurance
Following opening remarks, a select group offered personal reflections of their own experiences as minority leaders, fathers, educators, business owners and citizens as well as insight into a way forward. The representative voices provided input regarding numerous issues, including:
- Ensuring Black youth feel heard and acknowledged;
- Encouraging leaders of faith to use their platforms to address race;
- Increasing funding and resources for Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
- Tackling criminal justice reform; and
- Providing more practical, hands-on training, evaluation, and accountability for police officers.
Pence assured those present the Administration is working with a commitment for equality in our nation, while mourning with those who mourn and grieving with those who grieve. He also expressed support for the right to peaceful protest, explaining that is why forces were mobilized to make space for peaceful demonstrations so voices can be heard.
“My prayer is that we as a nation have ears to hear, to listen to one another, with open hearts,” said Pence.