Wilkins steps out with clergy support

kajanaku@tri-statedefender.com | 5/19/2014, 1:54 p.m.


The show of support by Stephens and the other ministers was a signal that the race has shifted into a higher gear in the wake of the May 6th Shelby County Primary Elections. Cohen has been formidable against previous challengers, winning by overwhelming margins.

So, why should voters oust a representative who has proven to be popular at the polls? And how important of a role can the church play this time around?

"We need change," said Bishop Brandon B. Porter, pastor of Greater Community Temple COGIC. "I am a strong believer that if something is not broken, you don't just say don't fix it, you make it better. It's not that the systems are all broken, but they need to be improved. So I am saying over and over again as it relates to Ricky Wilkins, give change a chance. I believe we can have better this time around."

Porter said he was motivated by what he sees in Wilkins' life and by his achievements as an individual.

"As he (Wilkins) mentioned, he happens to be a black man, but he is an accomplished man, someone that we can look at in our community. And also being that I am black, I cannot negate that fact, there are young people that I want to point towards him and say, 'You can survive, you can make it, you can come back home to Memphis.'"

The Rev. Noel G. L. Hutchinson Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church-Lauderdale, said he views Wilkins as "the right man at the right time for this job." Asked if that was the sole reason or whether he had a particular issue with the incumbent, Hutchinson said, "I think it is a mixture.

"I think that the incumbent has shown a great face in Washington, but as was said earlier, there are some pressing needs here in Memphis on the ground that need to be addressed. ... If you think about how Congressman operate, they bring things from Washington to help their constituents and they also understand the need of their constituents to know what needs to be brought for that particular district. So it's key to have somebody who has the sensitivity to that and has an understanding of that. I believe Ricky Wilkins is uniquely equipped to do that."

Wilkins was introduced by the Rev. Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church-Broad, who said he believed Wilkins to be "the best and the next Congressman of the Ninth Congressional District."

Saying he was humbled by the showing of clergy support, Wilkins detailed his journey from being "a poor kid who grew up in the heart of the Ninth Congressional District. I couldn't wait to get out of law school and get back home, roll up my sleeves and do everything in my power to try and move Memphis forward. And I have been doing that for the last almost 24 years."

Wilkens, remarking that much is required of one who is given much, said he spent 20-plus years rebuilding public housing here in Memphis so that poor people would have "a decent place to lay their heads and a nice community to raise their children."