Correction: The name of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s son Jonas was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
Detroit – Speaking in his most visible appearance in the city he once ruled after spending more than seven years in prison, Kwame Kilpatrick on Sunday stressed to the people of Detroit the importance of second chances.
“How can you be born again and be the same person? The former mayor, who was convicted in 2013 in a racketeering and bribery scheme, asked worshipers at the historic Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit.
One of the city’s most controversial figures, Kilpatrick was back to preach. He took the pulpit with cries of “Kwame! And “We love you, Kwame!” and delivered a sermon that elicited standing ovations. He thanked the faithful for praying for him.
“God said it was you who came back,” he said.
Kilpatrick, 51, who served more than seven years of a 28-year prison sentence before being released prematurely from federal prison in January under President Donald Trump, said his experience had changed him .
“Let (God) expose you! I’m not trying to free anyone. I’m not trying to cheat on anyone. The light is on. The light is on.”
Corey Pope, a Hamtramck resident, was struck by the second chances message.
“It was all about deliverance,” Pope said after the service. “Those who got a second chance do it better than the first time. “
Kilpatrick’s sermon was based on the scriptures and he titled it “It is not time to die”.
Pope said he liked Kilpatrick to stick to Bible references when delivering his sermon because it showed his commitment to his faith.
“I think he’s a phenomenal pastor already,” Pope said.
Detroiter Gwen Greenlee agreed.
“(Kilpatrick) gave a blessed sermon,” said Greenlee. “He used the Bible. He is a changed person.
Greenlee said what resonated with her in Kilpatrick’s preaching was her comments that you have to believe the word of God before you can have a relationship with him.
Evangelist Rosemary Washington-White said she believed the former mayor was “born again,” and it showed with her knowledge of the scriptures and its application to her own life.
“He did a terrific job,” Washington-White said as she left Little Rock Baptist Church on Sunday. “He’s a changed man.”
Kilpatrick said he turned to his faith for protection as COVID-19 spread in the weak-security federal prison unit in Oakdale, La., Where he was being housed. He said the disease claimed the lives of nine inmates.
He said he had a conversation with God about virus survival saying, “You told me I was leaving this prison. I’m not leaving in a body bag. … I go out.
Kilpatrick said he told his son, Jonas, that he was only going to be jailed for seven years and that God was going to set him free.
The former mayor concluded his debut as a preacher on Sunday by calling on others to re-engage in their faith.
Local pastors and politicians were among those who came to pack the historic Little Rock Baptist Church, where the Rev. James Holley, senior pastor, led the congregation for 49 years.
Holley said the church numbered 800. A crowd overflowing on Sunday for Kilpatrick’s appearance left only seats available on the balcony and most of them filled up quickly.
Holley said he met Kilpatrick when the former mayor visited Detroit several months ago and discussed the possibility of the former politician speaking at church.
Holley said he appreciated Kilpatrick delivering his sermon, one of the first since his release from prison, in his church, saying there were many more the former mayor could have chosen.
Kilpatrick also pre-recorded a sermon for the Institutional Church of God in Christ YouTube channel of Great Emmanuel, where Presiding Bishop J. Drew Sheard leads the congregation.
Kilpatrick told the church that his ministry was ordained by God.
“I would like to thank God for this moment… a manifestation of what this miracle is. The last time I was here on this podium I was on my way to jail and the world told me I would be there for 28 years, ”Kilpatrick said in Sunday’s speech.
“The angel of this house said that was not true. This God was sending me through a process and at the end of that process I would become who He always wanted me to be. I thought (Bishop J. Drew Sheard) was crazy. I thought he was completely out of his mind but one night in solitary confinement his words came back to me.
Kilpatrick said he was out of the ground and “out of the bed of depression.”
“I asked God to show me, to talk to me, to tell me who I am,” Kilpatrick said. “And from that day forward, he changed not only my heart, but he changed my life.”
Kilpatrick plans to remarry and study for the ministry, according to an interview he gave to Deadline Detroit. He is divorced from his first wife, Carlita.
Trump commuted Kilpatrick’s prison sentence in one of his last acts as president in January. Kilpatrick’s 28-year sentence, the longest for a public corruption conviction, ended a chapter in Detroit’s history. The city plunged into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in July 2013, in part because of financial decisions made by Kilpatrick.
The former mayor was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in March 2013 on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud and racketeering. Seven months later, Kilpatrick was sentenced to federal prison by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.
“A sad thing about this case is that a man with the charisma and ability of Mr. Kilpatrick chose to waste his talents on personal growth and enrichment when he had the potential to do so much for town, ”Edmunds told Kilpatrick before condemning him. to 28 years in prison almost eight years ago.
As part of Trump’s commutation, Kilpatrick’s prison sentence has been reduced, but his 24 felony convictions remain. The former mayor has to pay $ 1.5 million to the Detroit water utility and more than $ 854,000 in restitution to the city following the SMS scandal that ended his political career.
Kilpatrick currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her mother, former U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, has lived in a house 39 miles south of Atlanta since June 2019.
Coming from a once powerful and politically connected family, Kilpatrick served as state lawmaker in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1997 to 2002. He became the youngest person elected mayor of Detroit when he was elected in November. 2001.
Kilpatrick was mayor from 2002 to 2008 before resigning in September 2008 after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Kilpatrick’s friend Bobby Ferguson, 52, was released from federal prison on compassionate grounds in April after serving just eight years of a 21-year sentence for helping Kilpatrick turn Town Hall into a criminal enterprise.