Progressive Preacher, Rev. Samuel, Running for State House (UPDATE 1)
(APN) STONE MOUNTAIN — Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, a long-time activist for peace, tolerance, and social justice in Georgia, is running for the State House on a platform which includes civil rights for former prisoners.
The 89th district, the area he wants to represent, runs from Covington Highway to Redan Road, and from South Indian Creek to Stone Mountain and the Lithonia area. The district has about 45,000 people. The Victory for the World Church, where he has worked for 23 years, is in Stone Mountain but is outside the district.
The current incumbent in this seat is State Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale Estates).
Unlike many candidates for political office, who appear out of nowhere and claim to be life-long activists, Rev. Samuel is the real deal. He makes no secret of his views and has spent a lifetime working for the rights of poor people; those discriminated against; immigrants; as well as homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered people.
Another rarity among Georgia politicians, he is deeply involved in the rights of prisoners.
Rev. Samuel told Atlanta Progressive News that this involves the right of those who have served their time to rebuild a life after prison.
“Georgia does not have an expunging policy. A child of 17 who commits a nonviolent crime should not be punished and kept from a career for life. I mean nonviolent offenders. Once a man or woman serves their time for a crime they should not be forced to live a lifetime of discrimination,” Samuel said.
“If they can’t get a job or face discrimination in getting hired, that opens the door for recidivism. I want a definite plan for expunging nonviolent crime as a policy.”
In addition, he intends to push for funding for Grady Hospital, for greater public transportation, and to support teachers so underprivileged people are not left without an education.
“I have tried to be a voice for the poor, homosexual, immigrant, the discriminated against person. Now I want to be a vote for them. I have changed from being a voice to a vote,” Samuel said.
Samuel says he would like the district to have greater engagement and participation in policy. In that way the politicians would have to show greater accountability to their constituents.
Samuel stated in his announcement of candidacy that he intends to provide quarterly public forums to allow citizens to be informed and engaged with the issues at the Georgia State Capitol.
Rev. Samuel has a background in American History from Wesleyan University. He received the Benjamin E. Mays Theological Fellowship Award while attending seminary in Atlanta and he obtained his Master of Divinity Degree and the Doctor of Ministry Degree. He studied the connection between religion and ethics.
Unlike many religious leaders who reinforce an arbitrary line between faith and social justice, Samuel has integrated the two. He has used his ministry to work for the rights of those he considers the voiceless.
Atlanta Progressive News’s archives include mentions of Samuel’s participation in various rallies and forums. APN’s internal records of press releases show an even more extensive list of examples of civic leadership.
For example, on February 22, 2006, Samuel worked with the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition to help sponsor a rally against spying by the US government against leftist peace groups.
He participated in and spoke at a major peace rally on April 01, 2006, where over 4,000 congregated from throughout the Southeast at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta.
On March 10, 2007, he took church members to Philadelphia to participate in a Black Church Summit against Homophobia.
He participated in conferences on the State of Black Gay America in 2007 and 2008.
Rev. Samuel spoke at a forum on religion and social change on March 16, 2009, “To Radically Change the World: Do We Need God or Away With All Gods?” sponsored by the Georgia State University Revolution Club.
Samuel also works closely with former Presidential candidate, Rev. Al Sharpton, and his organization the National Action Network (NAN). Sharpton has also been a voice for reconciliation between the Black churches and the GLBT community, two oppressed groups who should work together instead of apart.
Samuel participated in a NAN rally in Atlanta against gun violence on November 23, 2009.
Recently, he held a workshop for Stone Mountain area residents to teach them how to obtain access to federal stimulus funds through various available programs.
Samuel also previously served as the director of the Dekalb County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“Communion with God is contingent upon the community that we build with one another,” Samuel stated in his campaign announcement.
“The Conservatives use divide and conquer to keep us apart. Conservatives are in the majority. But as my mentor the Reverend Lowery [likes] to say, just because we are in the minority does not mean we should stop.”
He has suggested that various groups get together to form coalitions. “I think when those voting blocks can form a formidable mass we can bring Conservatives to the table.” He feels he is able to bring very disparate groups to the table together.
Samuel thinks that many people are too divided into their own interests, working to the advantage of those who oppose them. “The same people are concerned with health rights, immigration, gay rights, and education… I bring the ability to communicate across races and class. One group cannot effect change by itself.”
CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this article stated that Victory for the World Church was in the 89th District, but it is not, although it is in Stone Mountain. A previous version of this article stated that 40,000 peace activists attended the April 01, 2006, rally; however, as APN reported at the time, it was only about 4,000 attendees.
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Alice Gordon is a Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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