A group of African-American pastors in Durham have thrown their support behind mayoral candidate Farad Ali.
Calling themselves “Durham Clergy United,” the group led by Rev. Jerome Washington of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church said Wednesday in a news conference at Forest Hills Park that the city calls for a leader to bridge the gap between past and future and the have and have nots.
“In the life of the African-American church, social justice is central,” Washington said. “To Durham, we need to come out, we need to vote, and we need to vote for the future.”
Washington said that Ali “is the man our city needs at this time. We know him.”
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About a dozen clergy from a range of churches around Durham, stood with Ali. Also on hand to support Ali was Durham Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden. Some of the pastors are former elected officials themselves, like Rev. Michael Page of Antioch Baptist Church and Rev. Fred Davis of First Calvary Baptist Church. Page is former chairman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners and Davis is a former Durham Public Schools Board of Education member.
“Personally I know his heart, and I know Steve Schewel’s heart, working on school board with him,” said Davis, who served on the board at the same time as Schewel, who is Ali’s opponent for mayor. Davis said speaking out for Ali to win is not against Schewel, but for Ali.
“I think Farad’s experience of collaborating with business and the community – that’s what it’s going to take,” Davis said. “I asked both of them not to make this race a black and white issue. There’s one Durham.” Ali is African American and Schewel is white.
Page said he’s supporting Ali because he thinks it’s important to have someone to bring the community together.
Rev. Gregory Hardy of Tabernacle of Redeeming Faith said he and Ali are childhood friends who played football together. Hardy said he early-voted at N.C. Central University.
“It is important for Durham to see us together as a community of faith,” Hardy said.
Rev. William-Hazel Height of Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in North-East Central Durham said that Ali has a “fresh vision and clear sight to where Durham is going.”
Ali said the pastors have served the community.
“While Durham seems to be a community enjoying prosperity, some are not enjoying prosperity. From the grasstops as well as grassbottoms, we should share in the prosperity,” Ali said. “Vote for your interests. Vote for you.”
Ali said that he vows an Ali mayoralty will make his slogan of “One Durham” a reality of shared prosperity.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Early voting is underway and continues through Saturday, Nov. 4.