A delegation of over 100 plus strong, determined, dedicated AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL (AME) CHURCH members, ministers, and high-ranking church officials from the 4th District, showed up and showed out at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois on Wednesday April 18, to meet and talk with key State legislators and administrators.
The first year initiative, entitled “AME LOBBY DAY AT THE ILLINOIS STATE CAPITOL” focused on civic education, empowerment and engagement.
Reverend Gary McCants, Presiding Elder, South District, Illinois Conference AME Church, along with Presiding Elder Albert Tyson, III, Presiding Elder Elaine Gordon, mother-in-law of State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, and her staff, were the chief architects and planners of the 2018 Lobby Day at the behest of Bishop John Franklin White, presiding Prelate of the 4th Episcopal District.
Springfield Alderman Herman Senor, Ward 2, and a member of the Host church, welcomed the delegation and read a proclamation from the Mayor’s office, proclaiming April 18th AME Day in Springfield.
Led by Bishop White, representing Chicago and the States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and parts of Iowa and Canada, the Springfield trip was the opening action in a longer church mission being planned to build civic education and engagement among church membership and the public. Additionally the action intends to use its power, within the scope of restrictions as a non-profit, 501© (3) organization, to Be a Voice for the Voiceless, in assessing, evaluating and being a forum for the community.
An important strategy is to familiarize those officials with the church’s plans to educate and organize the power of the state-wide numbers of informed AME church members, and tell them of its formidable history and successful track record of social justice work for over two centuries since 1787 when it came into being. Visit www.amechurch.com for additional information.
Rev. Albert Tyson, III, Presiding Elder, North District of the Chicago Conference, AME Church, organized a dinner with several members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus the night prior to Lobby Day.
“We are here to be heard, seen and to let it be known that we will be back…and not just at election time,” said Presiding Elder Gary McCants in a statement to legislators.
Three major highlights of the Lobby Day trip that went to the heart of understanding economic issues were the meetings with Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a 20-minute conference room meeting with House Speaker Michael Madigan, and an informative afternoon visit with State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs.
Comptroller Mendoza and her staff listened to the group’s concerns about how the 2 1/2 year $16.67-billion dollar budget deficit had wreaked economic devastation on Black businesses, elders, children and low and middle-income people.
House Speaker Madigan discussed in detail the reasons for the state’s terrible fiscal condition that so severely harmed Black interests. He said it was totally the result of Governor Rauner’s refusal to sign a budget, or to negotiate for over 2 ½ years unless his demands were met to do away with collective bargaining.
Representative Jehan Gordon – Booth, Assistant Majority Leader added depth and detail to the Speaker’s remarks and added perspective to the Speaker’s understanding of the Church.
As an immediate post-Lobby Day next step, Bishop White asked church members and clergy to: spread the word to their congregations and others, become more knowledgeable and engaged with their state and local legislators and public officials, and plan to “be in that number” next year for AME Lobby Day in Springfield and to be part of the visible show of force that stands together to be the Voices of the Voiceless.