Black churches celebrate Obama win

Golden family
Harold Golden, Debora Brooks-Golden and their 10-year-old son Xavier at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Paul. During services Sunday, Xavier read a speech he wrote about what the election of Barack Obama as president means to him.
MPR Photo/Jess Mador

The Rev. Gloria Roach-Thomas began her early morning sermon at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Paul by opening the microphone to members of her congregation.

"This past week was a big week, it was a historic week. And because it was historic, I am giving us a few minutes for those of you who might like to have one sentence or two of how you are feeling, or what the impact of this election was on your life," said Roach-Thomas.

Rev. Gloria Roach-Thomas
Rev. Gloria Roach-Thomas greets members of her congregation after Sunday services at St. Paul's Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church. Roach-Thomas used Sunday's sermon as an opportunity to encourage people to stay politically active.
MPR Photo/Jess Mador

Xavier Golden, 10, wearing a light colored suit and tie, read an essay he wrote. He told the packed church how proud he feels about Tuesday's election of Barack Obama.

"My brother says, 'Dream a dream, plan the dream, work your dream plan and dreams come true.' This is what President Obama did, and now I have proof that with effort and hard work, all my dreams can come true," said Golden.

In her sermon, Rev. Roach-Thomas said the election is a watershed in the nation's history. She was moved to tears as she remembered growing up in the segregated South, and said Obama's win would not have been possible without the extraordinary sacrifices made by ordinary people.

"We have elected an African-American president, and we will work with him and give him our utmost respect, but it doesn't stop there," she said. "Too many people died. Four little girls in the basement of a church died for this moment."

Roach-Thomas was referring to the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, which killed four young girls.

America has said, we trust this man -- and he looks like me. I have renewed faith in America again."

She urged the congregation to continue the political activism that propelled Obama to victory. She cautioned them not to have false hopes that one man alone can tackle the serious problems facing the country.

"So we have to continue to get up every morning and go to work, and not only to work for ourselves and for our families, but to work with and for the people around us," said Roach-Thomas.

After the service, people milled around the church lobby, eating breakfast and chatting. Xavier Golden's mother Debora Brooks-Golden said the pastor's message resonated deeply with her. She said Obama's campaign has inspired people of all backgrounds to come together.

"We are all in this together, and he will remind us. I'm just looking forward to him telling us where you want us to go; tell us how you want us to get there," said Brooks-Golden. "I feel so gratified that there will be so many of us who will do it, who will want to do it. I know I became more involved this year. It has just been an encouraging opportunity for all of us."

Brooks-Golden said Obama's ability to communicate across racial, ethnic and class lines is what motivated people to get involved in record numbers. Leaders from Minnesota's State Baptist Convention also encouraged their pastors to discuss the historic importance of the election.

Rev. Devin Miller from Emmanuel Tabernacle Church Of God In Christ in Minneapolis said the election fulfills the promise of America for many who thought they wouldn't live to see an African American in the White House.

"On Tuesday all of that changed. It became a new America. We have only really been free for 40-something years. Now America has said, we trust this man -- and he looks like me," said Miller. "I have renewed faith in America again, and I think that is the story that is going around across this country, in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, in temples -- we can believe in America again."

Miller and other African-American leaders say, as uplifting as Obama's win was for them, the nation still has more work to do to heal the racial divide.

Miller says he hopes Obama's election will also trickle down and help more people of color win office at the state and local levels.

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