In unprecedented year, Black pastors carry extra burden

By Desiree Stennett, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Religious News

Zak said his congregants "want different management" in the White House, and he is confident his church members will go to the polls.

"There's a sense of urgency but not excitement," Zak said. "I anticipate 100% of the people voting from this church. ... I believe everybody's going to vote and that's in spite of COVID. I'm hoping that other congregations have had that same spirit of tenacity to get out and vote as well. It's an important election."

McRae said his church members are in a similar place.

"I think they are frustrated with the process," McRae said, adding that it will be a sense of duty, not excitement, that brings voters from Pine Hills to the polls. "They don't believe in the election like they used to anymore."

While some will surely choose to mail their ballots and others will vote independently early or on Election Day, McRae said he is encouraging those who would rather vote in person to do so early at the Amway Center during a Souls to the Polls event reimagined for the COVID-19 era.


Souls to the Polls, traditionally held on the last Sunday of early voting, is usually marked by Black church leaders organizing buses to take their congregations to vote together after service. Those voters have the power to sway elections. In the 2018 primary, a surge of votes via Souls to the Polls helped Andrew Gillum win the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

This year, to encourage social distancing, there likely won't be any buses. Instead, individual cars or smaller carpools will be encouraged to take voters to the Amway Center, a space large enough to maintain space even if voting lines are long. McRae said the church has also chosen to partner with Black sororities and fraternities, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and other groups to have an even greater impact on the number of Black voters.

"We're all souls and we all need to go to the polls."

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