By DeAnna Tisdale Johnson
Jackson Advocate Publisher
In 2020, people across the nation suffered losses in various ways. Some lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic; some lost jobs; and some lost presumed freedoms like going outside without masks or hugging friends and family.
Ethel Wallace, a long-time Jackson resident and former Trustmark bank teller, suffers from the loss of memory due to dementia. Her 56-year-old son, Gerald Wallace, moved back to Mississippi to take care of her but was shot in the head in his front yard on May 14, making him the 50th homicide victim in the city of Jackson in 2021.
This brutal and careless action, in turn, leaves his mom without a son and without a caretaker.
One bullet can affect the lives of more than just the victim and the shooter. It has wide-ranging influences on the loved ones of both parties, the neighborhood, the city, the state, the nation, and the world, as we see in the instance of the Wallace family.
The same can be said for other systemic issues that plague Black communities across the nation. Because of systemic issues such as gun violence, mental health stigma, access to affordable healthcare, and others, Pastor Hosea Hines, who leads Christ Tabernacle Church in Jackson, has begun to organize ministers and pastors from all over the nation to implement spiritual transformation and social revitalization within Black communities by tackling these issues through the purview of the Black church.
Pastor Hines conveys, “My focus right now has to be on helping to reshape the environment in Jackson because Jackson has an environment that says, ‘It’s okay to do these crimes because you’re not go-ing to be punished for them.’ And that’s why we’re seeing an escalation of people running red lights and drag racing up and down the street and they’re not being ticketed.
“I’ve been in conversations with the sheriff, as well as the police chief, but until the climate in this city is changed, people will feel that it is okay. Any time a person is accused of murder and they get out of jail on a $25,000 bond, and then they go and [commit] domestic violence and come back to $50,000 bond, and then eventually come back for another murder charge and get out from under a $100,000 bond, that’s a serious issue. And we’re having issues like that in the city of Jackson.
In addition to the issues prevalent in the city of Jackson, Pastor Hines is committed to taking action regarding systemic issues across the nation. “When President Biden won the election, he mentioned that as the African-American community had his back, he’s going to have our back,” says Pastor Hines, who is now the National Leader of A New Day Coalition for Equity for Black America (ANCEBA). Hines continues, “I texted about 15 of my friends and just simply asked them would they be amenable to a discussion about A New Day in America, helping to shape the Black agenda since we went through the hideousness of the Trump administration…all of us are in different areas, but yet we share a lot of the same goals and principals.”
On November 11, 2020, these 15 Black church leaders from across the nation met virtually to further discuss what this new coalition would endeavor to do. After months of discussions and meetings, the members of ANCEBA emphasize that the organization’s mission comes from a spiritual vision to “eradicate factors prohibiting fair and just access to afford/ able housing, quality healthcare, holistic education, economic development, and equal justice for people of color” by building on the trust, influence, and spiritual sovereignty that the Black Church has embodied throughout the years.
The Coalition is comprised of five regions that span the United States – Region 1 (Midwest – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan); Region 2 (Northeast – Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.); Region 3 (Southeast – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida); Region 4 (Southwest – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas); and Region 5 (West – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii).
Pastor William Rosser of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on the east side of Springfield, IL represents the Midwest region. Rev. Dr. Aaron Jones Jr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA represents the Northeast Region. Pastor Donald L. Robinson, Jr. of Marine & Mt. Moriah Community Church in Jefferson, LA represents the Southeast Region. Bishop David C. Cooper of New Hope Full Gospel Baptist Church in Albuquerque, NM, represents the Southwest Region. And, Pastor Warren H. Stewart of First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix, AR, represents the West Region.
Each of the regional directors has identified key issues within their communities that they would like to address. Pastor Rosser’s church is situated on the East side of Springfield where 90% of the small Black population of Springfield resides. For the past three years, he’s had an opportunity to observe his congregation and the larger community and recognizes that one of the most prominent issues is the lack of financial wealth, which makes it difficult for Black people in the area to own their own homes.
“Most of the African-Americans are renters, and they are generational renters. Their mom and dad rented; their grandparents rented. They don’t know, or they’re ill-informed, about processes that would lead to home ownership. There are very few classes that are being offered to educate them. And I want it to be an impetus in that regard.
“I wanted to use Pleasant Grove as a place where they can come and gain that knowledge, learn about what lenders are expecting, prepare themselves financially, prepare themselves credit wise, and move forward in that direction,” expresses Rosser.
“Secondly, I wanted to look at the economic opportunities. There are abandoned buildings everywhere, and there are creative folks that are available in Springfield with ideas that would just take off, but they’re not encouraged to do so because of finances or because there’s a culture here, like most places, where people don’t want to see you do well. I wanted to also create a think tank or develop an incubator where these small businesses that are based out of their homes can have a place to go to have an office with telephone and internet access. And they can meet with their clients without having to bring them to their house and look – at the same time – professional. Those two [issues] were most pivotal for me wanting to be involved in the coalition,” Rosser adds.
Pastor Robinson, who’s church is on the outskirts of New Orleans, has been involved in providing various services for his community for over thirty years, including his work under the leadership of Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. Now, his desire is to have a greater influence in his com-munity and surrounding communities by joining a larger network of pastors to effectuate impactful change.
One of his concerns deals with regentrification. “Our community is undergoing a transition in terms of other folk moving in. Probably the largest hospital owner in the state – Ochsner Hospital, which is all over the state of Louisiana – just took one of our historical high school sites, tore it down, and they’re putting up a new school in honor of Mr. John Ochsner. When folk invest about $20 million into the community, [they want to ensure] that they’re not coming into blighted housing, and they’re not coming into folks on the front steps selling drugs.
“So, they’re coming in and trying to take over everything. We just wanted to connect with a larger group so we could have an expanded voice and be a part of the process of helping to shape our community to make it look like the community that we designed and that reflects the values of our church and the forefathers who have come before us.”
Though the presence of Black people in Albuquerque, New Mexico is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the city, it is rich in Black history. The famed 9th and 10th regiments of the Buffalo Soldiers resided in and around Albuquerque to assist with building infrastructure and roads due to the booming growth in the area during the late 1800s. (“Protecting” citizens from Native Americans was also a large part of the Buffalo Soldiers duties.) Now New Mexico totes one of the largest populations of minorities – Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans – in the country. African Americans make up the smallest percentage (3%) of the minority population in New Mexico; they move to the state primarily to work in the military.
“We have issues as it relates to disparities in healthcare,” states Bishop Cooper.
“Healthcare and economic development is where I hang a lot of my work. We’re getting ready to be the only church in America that has a hospital clinic ran by the flagship state uni-versity, which is the University of New Mexico. So, healthcare is a big thing for me.”
Bishop Cooper is also the Southwestern Regional Bishop in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship (FGBCF) and is extremely aware of the issues larger Black populations face in places like Texas and Colorado. “Most of those states outside of New Mexico are all red states. We’re working hard to empower the vote and to stop those who would like to take down the voting rights.”
As far as economic development goes, Bishop Cooper talks about the bevy of possibilities for his community, especially in entertainment, STEM, and STEAM. “Albuquerque is now little Hollywood. Netflix is here; NBC Universal is here, and Disney should be here soon. And Intel just announced another $3.5 billion investment in our community, so we’re very high on tech.”
Philadelphia, PA was one of a few cities that were on everyone’s tongue last November during the presidential election. Pennsylvania is a battleground state, and many individuals and groups attempted various tactics to suppress the Black vote in Philadelphia – the most urban-populated area in the state. Pastor Aaron Jones, Jr.’s church is situated in the heart of Philly, two minutes from downtown.
“In Philadelphia, we’re dealing with a multiplicity of problems politically, socially, and even in our community. In the last election, Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania definitely experienced voter suppression. Laws are being enacted, so we’re having to educate people on those things and then fight against it. But it’s good to note that now we are a part of a coalition where we don’t have to fight alone. We don’t have to fight by ourselves,” expresses Pastor Jones.
Pastor Jones alludes to the fact that Philadelphia has crime issues that mirror those in Jackson. Yet, he is adamant about stopping the violence amongst Black males. “We must address young African-American men being killed every week. It happens every week in Philadelphia, and it’s ironic that the age group of the young men that are be killed is between 15 and 17. And it’s not the police that’s doing it. It is not other races, but it’s our people – other African-American people – who are killing our young people. If lives are going to matter – Black lives in particular – then they must matter to us first.”
ANCEBA’s theme is “It’s About Us, It’s About We, It’s Not About I and Not About Me.” But it could also be: Black ______ Matter(s). Black Lives Matter. Black Health Matters. Black Wealth Matters. Black Ownership Matters and so on and so forth. To learn more about ANCEBA, visit www. anewdayinamericacoalition.org or the Facebook page – www. facebook.com/ANCEBAUSA.