Reverend Raphael Warnock may owe a large part of his momentum in the Georgia Senate race to the Women’s National Basketball Association. Rolling Stone reports that the team’s decision to put on “Vote Warnock” T-shirts earlier this year (after his opponent, the sitting Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, opposed the team dedicating their season to Black Lives Matter) attracted thousands of new donors in just two days.
The divorced, father of two, pro-abortion rights church leader, has, says The New York Times, raised an impressive $100 million in support of his quest to become Georgia’s first Black senator. He’d become the eleventh Black Senator in United States history (via The New Yorker). (Barack Obama was the fifth.) Warnock, however, also faces extraordinary opposition. Politico’s analysis suggests that Warnock has battled or is battling over 62,000 negative paid TV commercials, more than any other candidate in Georgia’s runoff races. To clinch the race, Warnock has put together an advisory council of 24 LTBTQ elected officials, activists, and grassroots organizers (via Project Q Atlanta). And he’s running on an unapologetically activist platform. Having been arrested after leading a sit-in at the Georgia State Capital in favor of Medicaid’s expansion, Warnock now tweets photos of his arrest as a campaign slogan: “Next time I’m escorted by Capitol Police, it will be to my new office as U.S. Senator.”
Glimpses into Raphael Warnock's unusual childhood
From the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Reverend Raphael Warnock is used to rubbing shoulders with Atlanta’s elite. When The Atlantic met him, Warnock was dressed as a “stylish celebrity preacher,” his look complete with a “well-pressed suit,” and purple striped socks. The Washington Post compares his campaign look to that of a “suburban dad returning from Home Depot with a bag of mulch.”
Warnock, however, didn’t grow up in suburbia. He grew up in a housing project in Georgia, one of 12 siblings in a household dedicated to the church. His father, a World War II veteran, was a preacher. Per a legend that Warnock loves to recount, he woke his son up every morning at 6 a.m. and told him to “put on his shoes and get ready,” even if they had nothing to get ready for. (“Put on your shoes and get ready” is another of Warnock’s campaign slogans.) Warnock’s mother was also a pastor, which makes the fact that Warnock was giving sermons at age 11 no surprise (via The New York Times). A former colleague of his told Rolling Stone that, at 14, Warnock was capable of “in-depth conversations about the Bible, the Book of Revelations.” That was when he was working as a peer counselor in the local health department. The then director of family health for the Georgia Department of Human Resources, remembers him as a “young brother, who was as bright as he can be” (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Raphael Warnock is a follower of Martin Luther King Jr.
In some ways, it was Warnock’s work as a peer counselor that led him to study at Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, Morehouse College. There, he was gifted Best Black Sermons, which shaped his decision to apply to Morehouse. “I wanted to go to the school that Martin Luther King Jr. attended when he read Thoreau’s classic essay on civil disobedience,” Warnock explained to Rolling Stone.
Raphael Warnock’s dedication to Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings continued past his graduation and through time he became the youngest pastor to become senior pastor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Under Warnock, the church, founded by former slaves, continues to be a center for Black rights struggles (via The Washington Post). Warnock preaches what he described to The Atlantic as “a renaissance of the Kingian tradition, which is really bigger than the left or the right, and red and blue … It’s a deep human-rights tradition that is … informed by Christian tradition, but is not limited to it.”
Part of that tradition is Warnock’s deep-rooted belief that religion and politics should intertwine. The New York Times reports that Warnock has no intention of stepping down from his role as senior pastor to a 6,000 person congregation if he is elected. Needless to say, as a father of two, he’ll have a full plate. For example? “I literally am talking to Elizabeth Warren one minute, and changing … poopy diaper[s] the next,” he told The Atlantic.
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