By Iván Flores
The congregation of Great Faith Ministries International, a predominantly African-American church in Detroit, was thrust into the national spotlight when Bishop Wayne T. Jackson hosted Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee this month.
Trump attended a private interview with Jackson, and a worship service afterward. The visit was the first of its kind during Trump’s campaign.
Trump attended the service at the Grand River Avenue church with Detroit native and former Republican rival Ben Carson.
The sensitivity of Trump’s visit to Detroit did not escape his campaign. There were scripted responses for Bishop Jackson’s questions, which had been submitted beforehand.
The New York Times released a transcript of the questions and answers two days before the Sept. 3 event.
Trump’s support from African Americans as low as 2 percent in August, according to an article in the Washington Post. With his provocative, inconsistent and harsh rhetoric, Trump has seemingly alienated himself from minorities.
According to the Detroit News, Great Faith Ministries insisted that any remarks made by Trump to the congregation would not address political issues.
Outside of the church, protesters and curious spectators crowded behind police barricades. They were not impressed with Trump’s overtures.
James Johnson, 65, is a retired college counselor and “a lifelong Detroiter.” He was there to observe, not protest, but he had strong opinions.
“Trump does not have the right to broad-brush our community,” Johnson said. “His rhetoric is rhetoric of hate.” Citing progress in Detroit’s economic recovery, Johnson insisted that Trump’s bleak portrait of Detroit was unfair and “contradicting everything we stand for.”
About a quarter past noon, Trump left the church building. The crowd angrily chanted slogans like “Go home, Trump” and “Get the hell out of Detroit.”
The protesters clashed with a handful of Trump supporters. Johnette Eggert was among them. She is a substitute teacher from Madison Heights.
“This is not the way to go,” she said. “It is through love and unity that this country will be able to deal with racial issues.” But to bicker and say that he can’t come to Detroit and that he can’t speak to a certain group of Americans, she insisted, would not be make things better.
Joselynn Sauls, 26, is an auto worker from Detroit. She was among the protesters, but said that “they were being counterproductive” by insulting Trump. Ironically, her shirt did just that.
Sauls said, “He’s the worst of two devils, but I respect that he’s a bigot and he owns it.”
Lillian Bobak was another Trump supporter at the rally, “I wanted to see him in person because I’m going to vote for him,” she said.
Bobak believes Trump is the most qualified person to serve as president and insisted she had no quarrel with Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent. She wants what’s best for her children and grandchildren, she said.
Bobak simply believes a Trump presidency would be better for them than a Clinton one. Speaking about his harsh and divisive words, she said, “I hope he changes his mind. It’s the United States of America, not the divided States of America.”