In African American churches across the Washington region, the hoodie was just as prominent as the choir robe Sunday as many pastors voiced their outrage about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
“I have never felt as sad and angry as I have been over these last few days,” said Rev. Derrick Harkins, pastor of the 19th Street Baptist Church, who held a hoodie up on the pulpit Sunday as he preached. “This is an assault on one of our most precious jewels and I said during the service that in America no one should be able to indict, prosecute and execute someone for the crime of being a young black man.”
The men’s choir at Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale wore hoodies as they sang on Sunday, and at Howard University’s Rankin Chapel, the Rt. Rev. Vashti McKenzie wore a grey hoodie as she spoke about the anguish people have expressed about Martin’s death.
McKenzie, who preached from the book of Micah, called on worshippers to recognize their anger about racism, classism and inequities in access to health care and food as she, too, called for justice.
During the service, many of the worshippers and ushers wore hoodies in solidarity with Martin’s parents and that who have called for the Justice Department to charge volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman with a hate crime for allegedly shooting and killing the unarmed high school student.
After McKenzie preached, she summoned black males throughout the sanctuary to stand before the pulpit as hundreds assembled joined her in prayer for them. On Thursday, students at the historically black university rallied for Trayvon, mourning his death and calling for the shooter’s arrest.
At the First Baptist Church of Glenarden — as Bishop T.D. Jakes was preaching about forgiveness to promote his latest book, titled “Let It Go,” -- he had tough words for law enforcement officials.
“This is bigger than an African American issue,” said Jakes, senior pastor of the Potter’s House in Dallas. “All Americans should be outraged that our children cannot walk the streets safely, and if they are compromised then we do not have a judicial system that swiftly brings in the same accountability as they do when they arrest us.”
On Friday, President Obama addressed the issue by saying that Martin could have been his son. Later that afternoon he met with a group of more than 150 African American pastors for a previously scheduled program during which clergy from across the country received briefings from members of the Obama administration.
Harkins, who was part of the meeting, was hired early this year to be the faith outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee. He said the African American church has always had a dominant role in the affairs of the community, but he said the policy briefing had nothing to do with the Martin case.