As activist Atlanta preacher Rev. Timothy McDonald accurately recounts, education has been the heartbeat of the Civil Rights Movement. It fueled it, contends the former President of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, and launched his ministry.

“I probably got arrested more than anything else because I believed in fighting for education,” he reveals. “The key to upward mobility in our society, particularly for African Americans, was education. And our parents, who did not even have high school diploma’s stressed education. If you look at who really made the Civil Rights Movement, it was students, particularly high school students. So that right to vote enabled them to have a better education, better opportunities to advance themselves and their families and generationally. But that is under attack now. It’s not even being raised as much in the African-American community as it used to be.”

That is why the politically savvy and seasoned McDonald has enthusiastically endorsed the candidacy of former Georgia State Representative and school superintendent, Alisha Thomas Searcy as the quintessential candidate to win election as Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools in November.

“I think she brings a newness to it, an excitement to it,” opines Rev. McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist. “She understands parents, she understands teachers, she understands students. She’s able to connect the dots now, which I don’t believe the other candidates are able to.”

A plethora of other prominent pastors throughout Georgia echo McDonald’s sentiments, while passionately urging their parishioners and friends to vote for Searcy in the May 24th Democratic Primary. Three challengers oppose her.

“I remember meeting her as a young, vibrant, excited young woman who was willing to offer herself even then,” says one of Georgia’s most revered religious leaders, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church. “She has strong convictions, and her heart is for children and for education. And so much so that she is offering herself again for this position. She is that committed. This is a critical position, particularly for us as African Americans. I am supporting and endorsing and have already contributed to the campaign for Alisha Thomas Searcy. I believe in her. I believe in her heart.

Searcy, formerly known as Alisha Thomas Morgan, made history at age 23 by becoming the first African American to represent Cobb County in the Georgia General Assembly. She was raised in the Black church during her youth in Miami and has visited and/or spoken at more than twenty-five churches during her statewide campaign thus far. New Birth’s popular pastor Rev. Jamal Bryant told a group of fellow ministers on a recent Zoom call that he has known Searcy since she was 15 years old, when he was her NAACP Youth Director. 

“Going back even to then she was always fiery but focused,” he preaches. “She always was a natural-born leader of her peers, even back then. For me to relocate here to Atlanta and to see her still on the vanguard, and the precipice of leadership and change does my heart well, of knowing that another generation is now taking the torch and setting mediocrity ablaze. I stand not just for her but with her and wholeheartedly put the heft of whatever weight I may carry behind her because she has been consistent and I really believe, without fear of contradiction, that Alisha was born for this.

Endorsements such as that have been humbling and inspiring for the mother of three school age children. “Earning the support of pastors across our state is an incredible honor,” Searcy says. “Some of them have been friends and mentors for more than a decade. I am grateful for their support over the years. I am humbled by the belief in me from this august body of preachers and community leaders.”

Those leaders include the likes of Rev Valerie Thompson of Columbus, who tells this reporter, “Our rural areas get overlooked and our children are suffering, I believe, especially in Columbus, because we are being overlooked. We are in a state of emergency.”

For 17 years Rev. Thompson has pastored the Revelation Missionary Baptist Church and recently became “the first woman to sit on the Cabinet” of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia. She is a potent political influencer in Columbus. 

“My question is: how are we going to come together and make this work for our children?” she asks rhetorically.  “I think Alisha will be able to bring a different flavor because of where she has been, because she knows politics, and because she has collaborated with people in higher places.  She has a heart for the children, and she has a heart for education. She has closed some gaps for children, where people have said that it is impossible.”

Apostle Darryl Winston, the influential activist pastor of Greater Works Ministries, echoes that sentiment. “I’ve watched Mrs. Searcy in the earlier days of her political career cut her teeth on the steel wheel of Georgia politics as one of the youngest African Americans elected,” Winston says. “Her uncanny ability to work across the aisle at a critical juncture in the history of State politics caught my attention. As we contend with the widening achievement gaps in our educational system, coupled with the devious plan to deny the children of this state a true and accurate view of history, we need courageous leadership who will come out of the corner of political expediency and fight!”

Rev. McDonald believes that since the 2020 elections, “the Black church is re-emerging as a key player” in electoral politics. Education is critical to our democracy. “We’ve got to get education right,” McDonald preaches. “And Georgia is at the bottom in nearly every category as it relates to education.  The State Superintendent’s race is critically important.”

That is why the candidate, Alisha Thomas Searcy solemnly concludes. “For me, this show of support is beyond a political endorsement,” she opines. “I am running my campaign just as I will run the office of the State School Superintendent. This statewide list is a roadmap for our work to partner with the faith community to bolster support for public education and empower parents to truly engage in the educational experiences of our children.”