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The Ecumenical Theological Seminary hosted a timely panel discussion this past Sunday, November 1, 2020. In fulfilling our mission of training and equipping servant leaders for church and society, we understand the need to take the gospel message of justice and compassion beyond the seminary classroom. In a time of unprecedented political, social, and religious challenges, ETS understands the importance of community engagement in dealing with the real issues that impact real people. TAKE YOUR SOULS TO THE POLLS is one of a series of community events ETS will host to offer a platform and moral compass to discuss critical issues.

Many are old enough to remember the black codes, poll taxes, Jim Crow, gerrymandering, literacy tests, voter suppression, voter intimidation and domestic terrorism of the past. We did not expect to see such open and blatant reincarnations of these and other evil deeds during this election cycle. The effort to use the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Attorney General and local-state-federal officials to slow the delivery and processing of ballots is unprecedented! The effort by the Trump administration to destroy the Affordable Care Act in the midst of the resurgence of the Covid-19 virus is reckless and heartless. TAKE YOUR SOULS TO THE POLLS is our effort to inform, educate and implore the citizens of our community to exercise the sacred right and responsibility to vote.

To help us put these issues in context, a distinguished panel was formed to offer varied perspectives on these matters. A common theme was “OUR VOTE IS OUR VOICE.” The panel included:

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. The mayor shared his heart as he passionately reminded us of the current dangers and how we can respond to efforts to silence our voice by simply voting. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for working to make our voting experience in Detroit a safe and pleasant one.

Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP president and pastor, reflected on his many years as an activist and preacher in fighting injustice. We were reminded to be vigilant and focused as we prepared to vote on November 3rd.

Rev. Dr. Bertram Marks, Esq., offered some scholarly historical highlights to remind us of the road to justice we have trod to give us a present-day context that demands our commitment and action.

Mr. Hester Wheeler, Assistant Secretary of State, explored the landscape of opportunities for citizens to participate in our democracy. He shared how state officials worked together to insure that every vote would be counted.

Bishop Corletta Vaughn, Detroit School Board member, used this opportunity to advocate for the children of Detroit. Her passion was evident as she reminded us that our votes determine who makes decisions that affect the lives of our families and children.

Rev. Kenita Harris represented citizens under the age of forty. Rev. Harris gave an informative presentation that reflected her academic training in theology and community and economic development. As a practicing community developer at Jefferson East, Inc., she sees the challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of Detroit neighborhoods.

Senator Gary Peters did a wonderful job of affirming the comments of other presenters and adding his perspectives to the mix. His thoughtful reflections on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the average American, and need for strong leadership with a plan that addresses the Covid-19 resonated with many in our virtual audience. I would like to think his participation in this event helped push him over the line in his dramatic reelection to the U.S. Senate.