Local pastor fights for justice

Published 9:38 pm Friday, August 15, 2014

An event titled “Jailed for Justice” is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Nelson Chapel Å.M.E. Fellowship Hall, where the speaker will be Pastor George Kimbrough Johnson, the newly appointed pastor of the church.

He and 40 others were arrested on March 18, 2014 in Atlanta for protesting at the governor’s office because of the state government’s decision not to expand Medicaid in the state.

“Even though the Affordable Care Act is federal legislation, some states are opting out, and Georgia is one of them,” explained Johnson.

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He, along with the Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, state president of the NAACP and the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, had gone to Governor Deal’s office to present their case.

He said they went in and made a statement, asking to speak with the governor. “It didn’t happen, so we decided to sit and wait for him. We were peaceful,” explains Johnson; “but we were arrested for supposedly stopping the flow of business at the office.” He said he was arrested about 1:30 p.m. and kept until midnight.

The case has yet to go to court, and Johnson doesn’t think a court date has been set.

Johnson is a native of Houston, Texas, who graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans, then from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1996. He and his wife Maria Church Johnson came to the Bainbridge when he was appointed to the pastorate of Nelson Chapel A.M.E. Church on June 13, 2014.

While in Atlanta, Johnson served as a representative of Jobs with Justice, a national organization that is a coalition of community, neighbors and faith. The group makes solidarity protests where they see instances of inequality for workers.

Johnson said he has taken part in probably 20 protests before this, basically in the Atlanta area, but this is the first time he was ever arrested.

His stated purpose for holding the meeting Monday is primarily to educate people on the status of healthcare in Georgia. He estimates that 600,000 persons in Georgia are unable to get Medicaid because they fall into the gap — described as having too much income for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for the Affordable Healthcare Act. He believes that expansion of Medicaid in Georgia would go 140 percent above the poverty line and would qualify most for Medicaid coverage.

Johnson added that he and the other two pastors in Atlanta arrested with him, are all fraternity brothers of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the same one as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Johnson said he cannot allow himself to become discouraged about the issues of justice, as he just has too much to do.