NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - For the first time since a man gunned down nine people in a South Carolina African Methodist Episcopal church, A.M.E. church leaders are speaking out here in New Orleans.
They said when it comes to issues regarding race in America, talk is cheap, and they are now issuing a call for action.
"We believe we should move from talk to action," said Bishop Reginald Jackson, an A.M.E. church board member.
The killing of nine people in the Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, allegedly by an armed man who espoused racism, appears to be one of the most violent racial acts in modern American history, and A.M.E. church leadership says it's time to make change.
"Unemployment in the black community - no matter the economy - is always double the national average. That is because of race," Jackson said.
They say problems regarding race are everywhere, and include financial, correctional and educational disparities. And as we enter a new election cycle, they want presidential candidates to come with concrete ideas on how to make change.
"We will insist that they not come to us with pleasantries and generalities," Jackson said.
And they say outward signs of a South that once was need to go.
"For us, it's a history that was fought over our continued enslavement," said Sr. Bishop John Bryant with the A.M.E. church board.
As bad as the South Carolina church massacre was, these bishops believe it also presents an opportunity for change.
"So many whites - this is something they've seen, but never heard the other side of the story, and once they did, it was a different response," Bryant said.
The bishops hope that response includes relegating Confederate statues and flags to museums.
"I believe it will, and I pray it does," Bryant said.
And they say that in spite of the Charleston tragedy,the church will continue to allow outsiders in as part of a religious mandate.
The A.M.E. bishops will celebrate the church's 200th anniversary next year. They say they will use that anniversary to speak out against any behavior that's based in discrimination or injustice.