Strickland and his clerical support group.
Some critics of Mayor Jim Strickland have expressed skepticism about his accomplishments and maintain that he is out of touch with large portions of the greater Memphis community — specifically, its African-American population. The Prayer Breakfast shared by Strickland and African-American pastors on Saturday at his Poplar Avenue headquarters in the old Spin Street building could be seen as a move toward discrediting such assertions.
At the end of the breakfast meeting, the 30-odd clergy members, representing several denominations and numerous well-known community churches, gathered around Strickland and offered serial testimonies to his virtues and reaffirmed their support.
Leading off was Bishop Henry Williamson of the CME church: “We know this man has shown his commitment for increased business opportunities, jobs and the African American community ... and of course, going forward into the future, the development of Memphis into a world-class city And so for that, we are proud to endorse him today and encourage all citizens vote for this progressive, productive man, Jim Strickland.
He was followed by Bishop Brandon Porter of COGIC, who would credit Strickland’s efforts for returning his church’s annual convention to Memphis and absolved the mayor of any blame for the resurgent crime problem.
Next came the Rev. Bill Adkins of the Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith, who noted that 28 years earlier he had been one of the main supporters of the candidate, Willie Herenton, who would become the city’s first elected black mayor. Calling Strickland “a mayor of all the people,” Adkins said, “He has responded well, expediently. He has answered many of the questions that we have, and he has pursued many of the causes that we have great interest in therefore we are totally supportive. And this turnaround from 28 years ago to this day, and we hope that all the other methods would see the great job that he has done as the mayor of this city. And we encourage all of us to support him for the good work that he has done.”
Asked by a reporter to specify something in particular that Strickland has done, Adkins answered instantly, “The statues,” and went on to credit Strickland for ridding the city of memorials to Nathan Bedford Forrest, “founder of the Klan,” and to the Confederacy at large. Adkins thanked Strickland “for listening to us, understanding our concerns, understanding our needs, and responding.”
(After the meeting, Adkins said, “Strickland has done everything we have asked him to do. I’ve supported two black mayors, but maybe we’ve got to the point that we don’t have to vote for mayor on the basis of race.”
Pastor after pastor added other items to the bouquet, mentioning summer work opportunities for youth, a growth in living-wage jobs, action on behalf of the city’s sanitation workers, the city’s provision of pre-K, projects for Whitehaven, etc. All matters that Strickland would gladly claim as talking points and was no doubt happy to hear said by someone else.
Among other things, the turnout on Saturday could indicate that polls showing Strickland holding his own with the black vote, as he did in 2015, might well be on target.