The ministers of African American churches have a long history of involvement in social, political, and economic activities. In Atlanta an organization known as Concerned Black Clergy (CBC) has been active in all of these areas since it was founded in 1983. The membership of the CBC includes more than 125 religious organizations representing more than 100,000 members.
A group of six ministers formed Concerned Black Clergy in order to provide a forum to discuss the issue of homelessness in Atlanta. The African American churches represented at the meeting had been serving meals and offering shelter to the city’s growing homeless population. The CBC quickly moved from its focus of providing direct services to political involvement by encouraging both the city and county governments to expand their efforts on behalf of homeless people. As a result of the influence of the CBC, local governments began to expand their funding for homeless shelters.
The initial success of Concerned Black Clergy caused other churches to join, so that membership reached forty during its first year of operation. The CBC also expanded its range of interests as members crusaded for affordable housing construction and the expansion of welfare benefits. In 1986 the CBC joined forces with neighborhood groups representing the Proctor Creek area of Atlanta in support of the construction of a long-promised rapid rail line. With the threat of a transit-system boycott, the Black ministers and their coalition succeeded in convincing the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) to build the Bankhead station, connecting the residents of the Proctor Creek area with MARTA’s west line.
The CBC has had many successes representing the interests of low-income residents of Atlanta. For example, in 1988, when the state of Georgia, Fulton County, and the city of Atlanta agreed to build the Georgia Dome to provide a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons football team, the CBC protested the destruction of a small Black neighborhood known as Lightning and the projected impact of the stadium on several African American churches in the area. As a result of their efforts, the state agreed to pay $25 million to the residents, businesses, and churches for relocating.
One of the most influential leaders of the CBC is the Reverend Tim McDonald, pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church, who for many years served as the organization’s executive director. Under his leadership the group has expanded to its current size. The weekly meetings of the CBC, which is a member of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, provide a major forum for political candidates seeking the endorsement of African American religious leaders. Representatives of the CBC also participate in meetings with agencies, at which such issues as health care, education, housing, transportation, and other policies are considered. These and other activities have made the CBC an important influence on political, social, and economic issues affecting low-income residents of the Atlanta area. The organization keeps alive the long tradition of social and political involvement by leaders of the city’s Black churches.