Pfleger, clergy, activists to candidates: “Stop pimping the black church for free votes”

Invest in black and Hispanic media

By Chinta Strausberg

Flanked by ministers and community activists, Father Michael L. Pfleger Wednesday warned political candidates to stop “pimping” the black church and to cease taking the African American vote for granted by going to their churches to get their messages out for free in exchange for their support.

At a press conference held at Saint Sabina, 1210 W. 8th Place, Pfleger was joined by Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson, a senior advisor to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Roderick Hawkins, vice president of the Chicago Urban League, Rev. Mitchell Johnson from Joy Fellowship Church, Michael Edward LaFargue, president, West Chesterfield Community Association, Pastor Walter Matthews, Pleasant Green Baptist Church and Chairman of the 17th Ward Pastor’s Advisory Council, activists Wallace “Gator” Bradley from United In Peace who said blacks want to be hired to distribute the literature, and many others.

Also present were gubernatorial hopeful Tio Hardiman and his running mate, attorney Brunell Donald. Because they are candidates they were not allowed to speak but later agreed that candidates should support the black media.

But no matter which political banner a candidate is running under, Father Pfleger said all of them publicly acknowledge the importance of the black vote. “Put your money where your mouth is….

“There is a concern whether that vote is being taken for granted when it comes to spending their campaign funds for advertising.” He said most times they spend their funds in the mainstream media. “It’s disrespectful, and it is unacceptable.

“It is also disrespectful for these same candidates to come to churches in the black communities and ask to stand in their pulpits and talk for free and ask for votes but fail to spend their money in the black and brown media,” said Pfleger.

“If the African American community is important to you, then spend your money in the black and the brown media,” Pfleger said. If they don’t do this, Father Pfleger said their message to blacks and Hispanics is clear. “You’re either saying you don’t care about the black community or you’re saying you are taking them for granted and neither is acceptable in this day and age.”

But Pfleger had a message to his peers as well. “No pastor should allow a candidate to come stand in their pulpit and speak without asking them how much money they’ve spent in the black media. Don’t give them free time in your pulpit while they refuse to spend their campaign dollars in the black community and its businesses,” he said receiving a round of applause from his supporters.

Saying whether white, black or brown, Pfleger said, “It makes no difference of their race, if you’re coming in to speak in the pulpit, you ask them where are they spending their money and if they are not spending their money, then they should not come to the pulpit. Don’t give them free press.”

Wilson explained most people “don’t appreciate the power of the pulpit and what it really means to open up the pulpit to people who are not reinvesting in the community that supports your congregation. Referring to Bradley’s demand that blacks be hired to help candidate’s campaigns, Wilson added, “We’re not putting money on the streets. Candidates are running; yet they are running through communities where the jobless rate is at 40 percent. If they reinvest in black-owned media, that creates more jobs. It sustains a community.

“We are saying to reinvest in the people that you are asking to go to the polls on March 18th and then again in November to vote for you. We are not going to keep allowing people to take our dollars and give them to somebody else and then demand that we vote for them,” said Wilson. She said the black votes are often the margin of victory for various offices including judges.

Wilson made it clear. She said there are several litmus tests candidates should expect for black support. “Do you endorse the platform of issues that are essential to us…one is how do you plan to reinvest economically in the communities that are blighted, where there is highest unemployment, the highest levels of food deserts and those places in our communities where we are not even building the buildings being erected around us there fore not allowing us to participate in the economy.”

Wilson said the evidence of a candidate’s commitment to those they seek support is how they are spending their campaign dollars. “That’s the first evidence of your true commitment to keep your word if and when you are elected to office.”

And, to her religious peers, Wilson, who is also a lawyer, said, “be careful how you use the place that God has provided you with so that you do not endorse those who are not willing to support the community that gives your congregants and your congregation life….” She called on pastors to join with this coalition to tell the candidates “they must agree to invest a portion of their campaign dollars in black-owned media and black advertisers to place the media so we benefit from the millions of dollars that flow in these mid-term elections to broadcast and print media.”

Representing the Chicago Urban League, Hawkins agreed with Pfleger in telling the candidates to “put their money where their mouth is. If you want our votes, you want our support…our endorsements, make sure that you are speaking to them in the media that we have relied on for more than a century…the black press.” “Black media is powerful. Black media is our authentic voice. They are who we can rely on to tell our authentic stories.” He said supporting black media “is a requirement. We are not asking. We’re demanding it….”

Wilson agreed adding, “It’s not enough to give us lip-service. We want the dollars to follow your lips into our communities. It is not about whether they give the church an offering. It’s about supporting the business of the matter….”

She is also asking the candidates to use black ad agencies to help get their message out. “If you’re buying on Clear Channel, we want you to buy on WVON equally. You get more rotation…more visibility in our community.

“We’re asking the clergy that have the power to say no because you are reaching a captive group when you step into someone’s pulpit,” Wilson said. “You come to Saint Sabina that’s a captive group that Father Pfleger can say no to. He’s not only in the building but he’s streaming live.

“We’re saying shut it down unless they invest in the people that we want to give life to….” Wilson said investing in the black-owned media would create jobs and benefit the people just as the candidates are benefiting from their votes.

When reminded that Pfleger explained that some churches, like Saint Sabina, don’t allow political candidates to speak in their pulpits, but they will be acknowledged and allowed to meet and greet members after service ends in the vestibule. “That’s our policy here,” he said. “People running for office cannot get up and ask for votes from our pulpit.” He said pastors have a right to have those rules.

But, Father Pfleger made it clear to religious leaders, “Don’t let them come in and use you. That’s not acceptable….”

Agreeing was Rev. Johnson said, “If you have a story to tell our community, you should hire our community to tell your story and if you don’t then your story will stop at the door.”

Calling himself a “political operative,” Bradley said, “Any candidate that I represent, I make it mandatory that they advertise in the African American media. All political operatives be they white or black need to make that a mandatory issue if they got respect for the African American community….” Bradley said he’s tired of candidates coming to the black community “soliciting our votes, have no concern or agenda to deal with our concerns. I think now is the time, 2014, to tell them enough is enough….

Rev. Matthews said on March 1st at the House of Hope there will be a candidate’s forum where he is one of the panelists. “Before each question that I ask, I will ask if you’ve advertised in the black community.” Referring to political candidates who avoid advertising in the black media, Matthews said, “The media is the message. What they are saying is that they don’t care.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: