A subdued Donald Trump on Saturday directly addressed a largely African-American audience for the first time as a presidential candidate, delivering a warmly received message of unity that focused on fixing economic hardship in the black community.
Trump spoke to members of the Great Faith Ministries, a nondenominational church in Detroit, part of his outreach to what is typically a sizable Democratic voting bloc. His visit, however, was greeted by protests outside of the church ahead of his arrival.
Sitting in a pew at the front of the congregation, Trump took a selfie with a church member and at one point held up a baby over his shoulders. He then addressed the congregation.
“For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of this country. So true,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks. He added, “The African-American faith community has been one of God’s greatest gifts to America and its people.”
Trump told the audience he was there to “listen to your message” and said he hoped his appearance would “also help your voice to reach new audiences in our country.” He said he would lay out his plans for economic change and school choice — issues that he said would benefit black communities — in the future.
“When I see wages falling, people out of work, I know the hardships this inflicts and I am determined to do something about it. I will do something about it,” Trump said. “I do get things done, I will tell you. I’m going to get things done.”
Speaking in a measured tone, Trump lamented what he said was a nation that was “too divided.”
“We talk past each other and not to each other. And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what’s going on. I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways.”
“I believe we need a civil rights agenda for our time,” said Trump, before he concluded by citing 1 John 4:12.
“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us,” Trump said, adding, “That’s so true.”
After Trump finished speaking, the church’s pastor, Bishop Wayne Jackson, draped a prayer shawl over Trump’s shoulders, much to the crowd’s delight, and handed him a Jewish Heritage Study Bible.
“This is a prayer shawl straight from Israel. Whenever you’re flying from coast to coast — I know you just came back from Mexico and you’ll be flying from city to city — there is an anointing. And anointing is the power of God,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be sometimes in your life that you’re going to feel forsaken, you’re going to feel down, but the anointing is going to lift you up. I prayed over this personally and I fasted over it, and I wanted to just put this on you.”
Later, Trump swayed along with the music as the congregation’s chorus sang.