The reason 2020 is such a good year for local churches to encourage voting is because of the policy change, according to Pastor Jevon Catlett of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Catlett said there are great individuals with great character in Flint already.
“I think it’s a policy issue,” he said. “This year, what I’ve listened to with some of those that are running is they have good policies-policies that denounce White supremacy, policies that denounce mass incarceration, policies that are denouncing some of the things that not only are ruining our churches, but ruin our communities. If we push voting this year strong, I believe some of the things in our city can change.”
African American males tend to bridge police and politics together, according to Catlett; an African American male.
“We’ve been taught not to trust police,” he said. “So, in some strange, freakish way, when we think politics and voting, we think restraints. We think police. We think bondage. I think for the African American community, we need to change that mindset. We need to understand that the reason we do vote is not only because we can, but we believe it begins with change within us first. In order to change our communities, we’ve got to get out and vote.”
In talking to other individuals, Catlett has found that some people believe a winner has already been decided before they vote.
“What we have to understand is that’s just not true. Your vote matters. Your vote can change. If you feel like something is not going the way you feel it needs to go in your community, get out and vote and change it.”
Catlett, who is 30, has a message for millennials, in particular.
To Catlett, there are two things all millennials need to embrace. One of those things is education.
“Education is one thing no one can take away.”
Catlett also suggests millennials stay well-informed about what is happening in their own communities. Catlett said a lot of smart people in the local community are not putting their brilliance to use.
“To be educated and not use that education to change your surroundings means absolutely nothing. To the millennials, get educated on voting, get educated on your community and get educated for yourself.”
Catlett has been pastoring Mt. Olive for less than two years. So far, he has pushed the mayoral election hard.
“We didn’t encourage who to vote for, but we did embrace our members to pay attention to their policies and make the best decision on what you feel your community needs and who would be the best chief.”
August 4 elections include those for U.S. Senator, Rep. in Congress (5th District), Representative (34th , 48th, 49th, 50th, and 51st Districts), prosecuting attorney, sheriff, clerk-register of deeds, county treasurer, drain commissioner, surveyor, county commissioner (Genesee County-1st -9th districts), 7th Circuit Court judge and 67th District court judge.
When it comes to the upcoming elections, Catlett is encouraging all his church’s members to make a difference through their votes and to pay attention to policy.
“What we tend to do is pay attention to what a person looks like and what they sound like; if they look the part, if they sound half way decent. But we don’t pay attention to character and policy.”
Catlett said those are the two things that matter the most when selecting a candidate to vote for.
Since his church is not having church services in person due to COVID-19, he is encouraging those who attend his church to consider candidates’ character and policy during online services.
“COVID-19 has really swept through our church. So, we’re still trying to make sure we have people who are watching and getting our members adjusted to this new way of church. Normally, you could just push voting on Sunday morning while they’re there. But, now it’s really difficult to push voting when you don’t have people watching.”
Fortunately, Catlett has been getting his members familiarized with email, Facebook, Facebook live, Zoom meetings, YouTube and other outlets despite the fact the average age of his church members is 63.
Catlett also recommends partnering with other organizations that may be doing what churches are not, such as Nation Outside, which is working towards being able to help more individuals with felonies become comfortable navigating life within the city.
“I believe churches are really 30 years behind. We’re still trying to build family life centers instead of partnering with clinics-instead of building halfway houses. No one wants to come and play basketball. We have to do things that are going to change our community, and it begins with the issues.”
Catlett said he realizes the church will never be 100% the same, and others must come to the same realization. However, Catlett said he predicts the church will become more mobile and global, and this should be embraced. For example, due to social media, his church now has members in Puerto Rico supporting the church and fighting for change.
“When we think about voter registration, when we think about changing our community, when we think about where the church is now-it is getting people accustomed to a new way of worshipping and a new way of communicating. The Bible tells us it’s our job to get the Word of God to all four corners of the world. This is a way to do that. If we embrace where we are now, voting will be much easier.”
Catlett is originally from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, became a licensed minister in 2003 and was ordained in 2009. He and wife Symone (Mays) have three children.
Catlett said he is utilizing great sound and lighting and has updated the church’s website in an effort to change how young people view church. He believes the church is the right place to teach entrepreneurship, sex education and voter registration.
For complete lists of Genesee County election candidates, visit https://www.gc4me.com/departments/county_clerks1/election_division.php.