Donald Trump swayed to songs of worship, read scripture, and donned a Jewish prayer shawl during a visit to a predominantly black church in Detroit, where he called for a “civil rights agenda for our time” and vowed to fix the “many wrongs” facing African-Americans.
“I am here to listen to you,” Trump told the congregation at the Great Faith Ministries International. “I’m here today to learn.”
Trump has stepped up his outreach to minority voters in recent weeks as he tries to expand his appeal beyond his GOP base.
The visit was Trump’s first to a black church a rare appearance in front of a largely-minority audience for the candidate who typically attracts overwhelmingly white crowds.
Trump was introduced by Bishop Wayne T Jackson, who warned that he was in for something different.
“This is the first African-American church he’s been in, y’all! Now it’s a little different from a Presbyterian church,” he said.
While protesters were a vocal presence outside, Trump made a pitch inside for support from an electorate strongly aligned with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Our nation is too divided,” said Trump, who is known for making contentious remarks. “We talk past each other, not to each other. And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on.”
Striking a rare unifying tone, he said, “I’m here today to learn so that we can together remedy injustice in any form.”
Trump also praised the black church as “the conscience of our country” and said the nation needs “a civil rights agenda for our time” that includes the right to a quality education, safe neighborhoods and good jobs.
“I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that must still be made right,” Trump said.
Before he left, he was presented with a prayer shawl, which Jackson draped over Trump’s shoulders, and a Jewish Heritage Studies bible.
Trump also met with a smaller group of church members and recorded an interview with the pastor. Trump’s efforts thus far to attract greater support from minority groups have largely fallen flat. Polls show Clinton with overwhelmingly more support from blacks and Hispanics.
African-American community leaders, in particular, have railed against Trump’s dire depictions of minority life and dismissed his message as intended more to reassure white voters that he’s not racist than to help communities of color.