African-American Religious Leaders Come Together in Dover - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

African-American Religious Leaders Come Together in Dover

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - It has been a tense time for race relations in America recently.

Ferguson, Mo. is back in the news following the shooting of two police officers there last week. A fraternity was kicked off the University of Oklahoma campus after a video surfaced about a week ago showing members chanting a racist song.

It was against this backdrop that a "prayer in" was held in Dover Monday.

Leaders of Delaware's African-American religious community were at Legislative Hall. They want to send a message to lawmakers about the role race plays with regard to some of the most serious issues facing the state.

Pastor Donald Morton discussed the national context for the prayer in as the event began.

"What's been forced to the forefront is what we've been saying for a number of years. Black lives are treated differently, uh, than, than any other life, uh, in America," Morton said. "While it should not be that way, we have to continue to acknowledge that it is, because you can't fix anything that you won't acknowledge. So, I think it forced the conversation, local conversations to happen, because of the national landscape."

Among the issues people at the event talked about and prayed over were income inequality and liveable wages, the state's incarceration rate and the death penalty.

The sole lawmaker at the prayer in was Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover. Rep. Lynn is House sponsor of a bill that will be re-introduced this week to repeal Delaware's death penalty.

He said race and the death penalty are unfortunately connected. Minorities make up two-thirds of Delaware's death row.

"Though I don't believe the law has a discriminatory intent, I believe that it absolutely has a discriminatory effect," Rep. Lynn said.

And while places like Missouri and Oklahoma may seem far away, there is agreement at the event distance is no reason not to be vigilant.

"If we are active now, proactive now, then we will prevent it from happening here in Delaware, said Rita Mishoe Paige, pastor at Star Hill AME Church. "Once it starts happening in one part of the country, if we aren't careful, then it will trickle on down."

"While it may not be as overt as it is in some other spaces, clearly there are some underlying currents that, uh, we need to deal with," Morton said.

State lawmakers get back to business for the main part of the 2015 legislative session Tuesday. They have been on a six-week break for budget hearings.

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