Press Statement – In Memory of Congressman Elijah E. Cummings

Statement by Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP

DETROIT (October 18, 2019) – From the words of Congressman Elijah Cummings “From my own life experience, I can attest that we have come a long way toward universal justice in this country, but we are not there yet.” The nation has lost one of its foremost stalwarts for freedom and justice. For over fifty years, Cummings has been a voice for those often overlooked and most assuredly underrepresented.

The son of sharecroppers, he went on to Howard University and then to the University of Maryland School of Law. His passion for civil and human rights was fueled with intensity by a mother who witnessed blacks being denied the right to vote. At age 92, while on her death bed, she told him, “Don’t you dare let them take our votes away from us.” Congressman Cummings has been a voice and a fierce advocate to make certain that our votes would not be taken away. He served in the city of Baltimore as the first African American Speaker Pro-Tempore in the Maryland House of Delegates. He fought for the poor and championed the need for affordable health insurance and pharmaceutical drugs. This speaks to the very character of this gentle but forceful orator for justice. He called for justice in the death of Freddie Gray. He stood up for those in Flint, Michigan, where the water system had been poisoned due to the obvious failure and mismanagement in our own state government. Elijah Cummings even called for the resignation of former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in a public hearing that he chaired on Capitol Hill. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee he challenged those in the Trump Administration to be held accountable for their policies on immigration, foreign affairs and election interference. He stood in the gap to guarantee checks and balances on elected officials at the highest levels of our national government. He indeed was one who battled for the very soul of our democracy.

As Pastor of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, it was our pleasure in 2016 to have this civil rights icon to serve as the keynote speaker to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our church at its golden anniversary banquet. He spoke powerfully about the least of these and the promise of a nation to respect all of its people. All of his accolades reflect a great statesman and political leader. Yet the most memorable reflection of Cummings to many was his humility and kindness. This he extended to all people regardless of station or vocation. He was the same from the streets to the suites. He played no favorites, but he loved everyone with favor. Perhaps it lies in the words from his father who said, “The true test of a man is not what he does for himself but what he does to help others.” Certainly, if anyone is now ‘dancing with the angels’, as he said of those who stand up for democracy and freedom, it surely must be Elijah E. Cummings. Let us hope and pray that the angels can keep in step with such a noble master of the dance.

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