Bernie Sanders Courts Black Voters at Church Service in Harlem

Senator Bernie Sanders with the Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. on Sunday at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.Credit Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Senator Bernie Sanders with the Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. on Sunday at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.Credit Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

After weeks of hosting packed rallies around New York State, Bernie Sanders on Sunday decided to do something ahead of Tuesday’s primary that his Democratic rival had already been doing for weeks: He spoke at a predominately black church service. 

Mr. Sanders, a Vermont senator, visited First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem to speak with the Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr. about his past civil rights work, the need to reform the criminal justice system and his experience growing up in a family fraught with financial stress.

And while he was visiting the church, the Sanders campaign also began a new fundraising pitch using comments from the actor George Clooney, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hillary Clinton over the weekend, that the amount of money in politics is “obscene.”

The moves came just two days before New York’s primary, a contest that Mr. Sanders has said is crucial to his campaign and that he is counting on to help him overcome Mrs. Clinton’s large lead in pledged delegates.

At First Corinthian Baptist Church, Mr. Sanders asked voters that they not only vote for him but encourage others to do the same. On stage, Mr. Walrond asked Mr. Sanders a series of questions about why he remained in the race and why he got involved in politics in the first place.

Mr. Sanders told the church members that he learned important economic lessons from watching his parents argue over not having enough money. He also said he was moved to protest segregation as a college student because he was interested in social justice.

“I am running for president because it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics,” Mr. Sanders said, repeating a line he uses often in his stump speeches. “We need a candidate now who has the track record, the agenda, and the guts to stand up to the billionaire class.”

Mr. Sanders added that he believes many of the goals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remain unrealized and pointed out that black people continue to be underpaid without access to affordable housing and proper healthcare. He also said he learned about racial profiling by talking to people who regularly experienced being “harassed” and “intimidated” by police officers.

“I learned from Black Lives Matter,” Mr. Sanders said to applause. “What I learned is how police in white communities are regarded very differently than police in black communities.”

Mr. Sanders has visited predominantly black churches in other states, but Sunday was his first visit to a black church during the New York primary season.

Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have visited several churches during the New York primary season, likely shoring up their base. Some of the churches the Clintons visited include Christian Cultural Center in East New York, Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens.

Meanwhile, the Sanders campaign sent out an email to supporters asking for donations and quoting comments Mr. Clooney made to NBC’s “Meet The Press.” The actor helped lead an event in San Francisco to raise money for the Hillary Victory Fund on Friday night. For seats at the round-table dinner with Mr. Clooney, his wife, Amal, and Mrs. Clinton, a couple had to pay or raise $353,400, the network reported.

Click here to read more

Source: The New York Times | Yamiche Alcindor