Bernie Sanders Fights for the Black Vote, Visits Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland

Bernie Sanders, left, and the Allen Temple Baptist Church Photo credit: Getty Images
Bernie Sanders, left, and the Allen Temple Baptist Church
Photo credit: Getty Images

Following a pattern he began in earnest last month in New York by courting black voters at church, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a similar rally in Oakland on Memorial Day, about a week away from the California primary. 

Sanders appeared at one of Oakland’s most influential black churches – Allen Temple Baptist along International Boulevard – on Monday afternoon with actor Danny Glover, before heading over to Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall later in the day. Glover had been at the church on Sunday to celebrate the 85th birthday of church patriarch, Dr. Alfred Smith Sr.

Sanders spoke to about 200 people inside the church, stressing economic equality and more access to education.

“Most people understand that technology and the economy has changed the nature of education,” Sanders said. “And we have got to make public education from tuition and public colleges and universities.”

NBC Bay Area political analyst Larry Gerston said Sanders’ visit shows the Democratic presidential hopeful is “trying to make connections, trying to broaden his base.

“He’s saying, ‘You can come with me.’ I think he’s trying to peel off a portion of the black votes. If he can get 20 percent instead of 5 percent, that’s good,” Gerston said.

Sanders’ tweets on Monday also seemed geared toward issues that are big in Oakland’s black community: Making sure water isn’t toxic for children as a result of fossil fuel company greed – a timely subject as the city weighs whether to allow coal shipments through the port of Oakland, as well as anti-prison, anti-racial profiling messages.

Allen Temple was founded in 1919, and was the first black church in East Oakland, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The church has been been behind several progressive and political campaigns, including in 2010 when the church hosted a debate for openly gay mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan.

Hours before Sanders attended the church’s event, blacks, Asians, Latinos and whites lined up to hear him. Some held Sanders signs. Perhaps surprisingly, many were still undecided but were at the church to learn more.

“If you’re a mover and a shaker in Oakland, and politically engaged then you head to Allen Temple,” said Randall White, 64, a church deacon and photographer. “I’m a Bernie guy. His sensibilities with economics, income and equity, align with my own political sensibilities.”

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Source: NBC Bay Area | Lisa Fernandez