Can Ferguson swing the election?

African American clergy are getting in on the action as well. Prominent black denominations and faith leaders like Rev. Cynthia Hale, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner and others are calling the final two Sundays before the election “Freedom Sunday” and “Turnout Sunday” and asking congregants to go to the polls, often with a Ferguson-motivated appeal. In one example, Texas pastors—including Bishop T.D. Jakes and prominent national pastor Dr. Freddy Haynes—recorded videos for “Freedom Sunday Texas,” connecting the midterms with 1964’s Freedom Summer and encouraging black midterm voting (the author has worked with these clergy and others on civic participation issues). 

Not all African Americans leaders are encouraging black voter turnout, however, even in the shadow of Ferguson. Journalist and pundit Tavis Smiley said in a recent interview with ABC News that “if you’re black or brown, other than helping to save the Democrats’ hide,” there are no good reasons to turn out to vote this November. Smiley claimed that Democratic appeals to black voters are more about election year politics than a genuine desire to change policies.

But the appeals continue, and there is some evidence that they’re catching on.