Tallahassee, Fla. Pastor Dr. R. B. Holmes, whose leadership against hazing and the infamous "stand your ground laws", has announced his candidacy for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention USA., Inc.
At a National Press Club announcement last week, Holmes called on the Black church to arise and take back its historic role in fighting social justice issues.
"The Black church has become too quiet, too passive, too disconnected when it comes to challenging policies programs and persons that degrade and devastate our people" said Holmes, flanked by dozens of church and community leaders. He also announced the formation of a 40-member National Pastors’ Task Force to repeal and repair "stand your ground" laws.
"We have come here today to say to Black America and to the country that we as a people of color and faith are now ready to step forward to address some of the most urgent and critical needs impacting the Black community," Holmes said at the National Press Club announcement March 25. "We can and must lead the way to resolve and solve the present problems in our communities. We have come here also to launch my candidacy for the National Baptist Convention which is one of the nation’s oldest and largest religious organizations."
Pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Holmes is not new to the national stage. He is former president of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education. He also owns the Capital Outlook Newspaper, which is a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Among others participating in the press conference were civil rights Attorney Benjamin Crump; Judge Glenda Hatchett, Baltimore Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, the parents of the late Travon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Jiles, and Robert Champion.
"We stand with you because we understand the magnificent power of the potential collectively that is among us," said Judge Hatchett. "And we’re going to manifest it in ways that you can’t measure."
Holmes also indicates he intends to establish multi-denominational alliances. Bryant, from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will be co-chairing the National Pastors’ Task Force, Holmes announced.
Bryant says he stands behind Dr. Holmes, largely because of his vision. Reflecting on the "historic Black church," he said it "has always been on the front line, realizing that we are the voice for the voiceless. And so many who have become disconcerted and disenfranchised are really trying to discover has the Black church contracted laryngitis? Because we’ve not heard a voice," Bryant said. "Historically it’s always been a Black Baptist preacher to correct America and put us back on track; it’s always been the voice of a Black Baptist preacher to speak truth to power uncompromising…unbossed and unbought."
He added that Dr. Holmes is not "trapped behind denominational lines but caught within a unifying vision."
Two years ago, Holmes joined with NNPA to announce a national initiative against hazing, which resulted in the National Anti-hazing/Anti-violence Task Force. His church is viewed by Black community leaders as a headquarters for rallies and organizing. The National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton has been among speakers at the church. Holmes is president of NAN in Tallahassee.
The NBC election will take place Sept. 1-5, during the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. 134th Annual Convention in New Orleans. Current NBC President, Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, will not seek re-election. There are a total of six candidates running for the presidency.
The NBC, the largest Black Baptist convention, with millions of members from churches, district associations and state conventions world-wide, could broadly impact issues affecting African-Americans inside and outside the church.
"The National Baptist Convention must become more visible and vibrant as it relates to saving, sustaining and strengthening African-American families in particular and all families in general," Holmes says. "Now is the time for renewed action. In our 12-point action plan, we will take the leadership to save our boys and girls, to build schools in our own neighborhood, to repeal and repair stand your ground laws across America in our own neighborhoods and to support the importance of historically Black colleges and universities."
The controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws were catapulted to the forefront of America’s civil rights agenda in the February 26, 2012 shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Since then, other cases have heightened the issue, such as the killing of unarmed teenager Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn and the incarceration of Marissa Alexander who unsuccessfully pled "Stand Your Ground" when she fired a warning shot during an altercation with an abusive husband who had threatened her life. All three of these cases took place in Florida.
Holmes unveiled a 12-point action plan as his vision for the Baptist organization. The plan includes:
Transforming the Nashville-based National Baptist World Center into a full service ministry for member churches.
Helping churches to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy.
Networking with civil rights and social justice organizations to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Character building for athletes of the National Football League and National Basketball Association.
An urban and rural community development program that would include job training programs; faith-based schools; homes for the elderly; and first time home buyers.
His 12 points appear to focus on the church itself even as he establishes a national social justice agenda. In a statement, Holmes says: "Enough is enough! We need to take a deeper look at this legislation to make it abundantly clear that Stand Your Ground laws are not being used unfairly and unjustly, in reference to poor and minority communities."