Sun | Jan 21, 2018

In poor black region, fears and prayers over Trump

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Businessman Homer King stands outside his small store in Marion, Ala. King, who lives in the old plantation region called the 'Black Belt', says he is praying for President Donald Trump despite misgivings about his election.

MARION, Alabama (AP):

In what's left of the Old South's plantation region, the descendants of slaves who picked cotton and worked the dark soil are praying differently since Donald Trump moved into the White House.

During Barack Obama's eight years in office, folks who gathered for Bible studies or Sunday worship worried that someone would try to kill the nation's first black president, and they asked God to protect him.

Today, those worshippers are asking the Almighty to instil Trump with a kind heart and give him understanding for people far outside the world of Manhattan real estate or reality TV.

"We're asking for him to be compassionate," said Frances Ford, 60, a nurse who leads a non-profit programme that works with needy people in Marion, the seat of Perry County, one of the poorest places in the impoverished 11-state region known as the 'Black Belt' - originally for the dark colour of its soil and later for its high percentage of African-American residents.

With more than 600 counties stretching from southern Virginia to east Texas, the Black Belt was wealthy when cotton was king. However, as a study from the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University found, it eventually became the nation's largest contiguous pocket of poverty.

High unemployment, poor education, declining population and persistent health problems are the norm.


Scepticism, anxiety and fear


Black residents here were energised by hope when Obama was elected - Perry County went so far as to declare an annual holiday in his honour - but the start of Trump's term has been marked by scepticism, anxiety and fear, feelings that are growing for many black Americans nationwide as they struggle to connect with the president.

Trump promised his policies would benefit African-Americans and predicted he'd win the black vote. He didn't: About eight per cent of black voters nationwide supported him.

And Trump hasn't done anything since to make blacks feel more comfortable about his time in the White House.