The Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Trinity Baptist Church in Richmond on Sunday to offer a guest sermon and encourage members to become politically active in this fall’s election.
The civil rights leader, who is the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said his group will be involved in efforts to boost voter registration and turnout in Virginia this year, including a bus tour. The statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, along with all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, are up for election in November.
“We are forming a rainbow coalition of conscience, massive voter registration and turnout effort across Virginia,” Jackson said at a news conference after services at Trinity Baptist, off Brookland Park Boulevard. He was joined by church leaders and several state lawmakers from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, including Black Caucus President, Delegate Roslyn Tyler.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states with governor’s races this year, which puts extra national attention on Virginia.
Jackson, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate, offered his thoughts on current political events, praising the U.S. Senate for stopping a bill to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act last week and critiquing President Donald Trump’s comments late last week that police should not be “too nice” while transporting suspects.
“We must end the violence, end the poverty” and move to “a moral high ground,” Jackson said.
He said health care and protecting Medicaid will be important issues in Virginia’s race for governor. Democrat Ralph S. Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, is facing Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. A Libertarian candidate, Cliff Hyra, also is running.
“The governor’s race in Virginia is a big deal for all Virginians,” Jackson said. “If you’re concerned about Medicaid, which would affect thousands in the state, you ought to vote.”
When asked, Jackson said he supports removal of Confederate monuments from prominent public spaces.
“One nation, one flag,” he said. “The worst of our past should not be resurrected and sustained.
“We must all join the Union. The war is over.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney created a 10-member commission to study what other communities around the country are doing to address Confederate memorials. Stoney has said he wants to add context to the memorials on Monument Avenue, but does not support removing them.
The commission holds its first meeting Monday.
The civil rights group Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality issued an open letter to the commission over the weekend calling on it to keep monument removal on the table and to invite New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to speak at a public meeting in Richmond. Landrieu led the effort to move Confederate monuments from prominent public spaces in New Orleans.
On Sunday, Jackson also called for Virginia to adopt automatic voter registration for people when they turn 18, similar to legislation approved this year by the legislature in his home state of Illinois.
Protecting the right to vote is part of “a better South,” he said.
The Rev. Brenda Morgan-Sledge, an associate minister at Trinity Baptist, said the visit by Jackson was the first to the church in many years and will motivate the congregation to encourage people to learn about the issues and vote.