|By G. Michael Dobbs
Pastors gathered to recount their conversation with Congressman Edward Markey included (left to right) the Rev. J.P. Morgan Jr. of the Holy Trinity Church COGIC, Pastor Mark Baymon of the Deliverance Center of God in Christ, Rev. Talbot Swan II of the Spring of Hope Church of God in Christ, Timothy Paul Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New England of the International Communion of the Holy Christian Orthodox Church and Rev. Bruce Shaw of the New Hope Pentecostal Church.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD Members of the area's African-American clergy reported that in their hour-long meeting on Feb. 19, they discussed a variety of issues with Congressman Edward Markey who is running for Senate.
The press was barred from the meeting itself and the candidate did not stand with the clergy at the press conference that followed the meeting to explain what was said. Markey only privately answered questions from one media outlet before leaving.
Rev. Talbot Swann II explained the meeting was not part of an endorsement process, as the group of clergy does not make endorsements to their congregations. It was instead a way for the members of the cloth to learn first hand of a candidate's positions in order to speak with their church members.
The Rev. Mark Baymon said the focus of the discussion was on education, the incarceration rate of African Americans and the economy.
Baymon called the talk "candid and substantive."
Baymon said the ministers would encourage their congregations to register and to vote.
"We don't believe that any political party should take out support for granted," he said
Archbishop Timothy Paul said "the so-called war on drugs" was also discussed and called it a "detriment on our communities." He charged the Democrats have supported drug polices that have pout young black men in jail in order to gain votes in suburban communities.
He said that Markey spoke of the issue from a mental health viewpoint, rather than one of law enforcement.
Swan said the congressman also discussed the looming sequesters, which apparently Markey said was "another name for 'cuts.'" Swan said that many of the programs that would be affected "are vital and key to communities of color."
Speaking about the conversation about proposed efforts to strengthen gun control, Paul said, "African-Americans suffered from gun violence before Newtown [Conn.]."
He said he and other clergy are " particularly concerned that [any new legislation] is not just another police piece."
Baymon said that gun control was not an attack on the Second Amendment. He said that he favored greater background checks and that Markey is also not against the Second Amendment.
On the economy, Paul stressed that people want jobs.
"Just because you're poor doesn't mean you don't want to work."
Swan said the group would extend invitations to all of the candidates running to fill John Kerry's seat in the June special election. He added the intent of the meetings to have "a better understanding of where the candidate stands."
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