Posted: Nov. 9, 2003
SHARPTON ON SUNDAY
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Delaware had another one of those "Sundays
with Sharpton" sightings -- a visit from the Rev. Alfred C. "Al"
Sharpton on a day he could combine his politics and his preaching by
taking his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to
This was a makeup. Sharpton was supposed to go
to Bethel AME Church in Wilmington when he made his first trip to
the state on a Sunday in September, but a re-routed flight got him
in too late for the service, so here he was again.
His appearance coincided with Bethel's 159th
anniversary, which the congregation celebrated at Wilmington High
School instead of its sanctuary at 6th and Walnut streets so there
was room at one sitting for the customary two services. Several
hundred people attended.
Sharpton delivered the sermon, about a half
hour or so of religion and politics that had his listeners
applauding, laughing, standing and shouting "Hallelujah" at its
He mentioned his Delaware connection -- he
has known Bethel Pastor Silvester S. Beaman for more than 20 years
-- and reminded the congregation of fellow African-Americans what
life was like when the church was new.
"A hundred fifty-nine years ago, it would have
been unthinkable for any of us to be running or being the
president," he said. "Our vote is dipped in the blood of martyrs.
That's why I'm not going to give my vote to some slick-talking
With about a year to go before the 2004
election on Nov. 2, Sharpton's trip was part of a flurry of
increasing political activity here. Delaware Democrats held their
annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner last week and hosted Hadassah
Lieberman and Teresa Heinz Kerry, while the
Republicans this week are scheduled to have Laura Bush here and
William Swain Lee declare his candidacy for governor.
Sharpton joins U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman,
the 2000 vice presidential nominee, as the only members of the
Democrats' nine-candidate presidential field making multiple trips
here. Delaware Democrats will vote Feb. 3, a week after New
Hampshire holds its traditional first-in-the-nation primary.
Delaware Republicans are skipping a primary election with their
party set on re-nominating President George W. Bush for a second
Beaman set the stage for Sharpton. "He is a
Baptist preacher before he is a candidate. That's why we invited him
here today," he said.
It was clearly the opening Sharpton was
looking for. "I came to
preach. I didn't come to talk politics, but since Beaman brought it
up . . ." he said.
Sharpton dealt head on with criticism that his
candidacy should be discounted because he cannot win. "There's nine
folks running. I'll tell Bethel a secret -- eight of them are going
to lose," he said. "You go to race tracks to vote for winners. You
find the candidate who best says what you want to say. With me, you
Sharpton called his sermon "Stay the Course"
and said he learned what greatness is from Muhammad Ali. "You are
not great until you've been knocked out," he said. "From the mat,
from the ground, from the floor, God picks you back up again. . . .
If I stay the course, He'll fight my battles."
Amid his preaching, Sharpton did a fair amount
of bantering. "I thank God for another day -- a day we never earned
or deserved. I don't care how holy you are, I don't care how saved
you claim to be . . . if God just checked the record, none of us
would see the next morning," he said. "Every day above ground is a
Afterwards, Sharpton appeared to get what he
came for. Churchgoers like Anita Golden called him "excellent" --
good for a sermon, good for a vote.
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