Kwame Kilpatrick, former Detroit mayor, preached a sermon at the historic Little Rock Baptist Church called, “It’s Not Time To Die.” It was Kilpatrick’s first public speaking event since his twenty-eight-year sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump.
In 2013, he was convicted for racketeering, bribery, and extortion charges. Trump signed the order for Kilpatrick to be released from prison the same day he left office.
“This commutation is strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community, Alveda King. Alice Johnson. Diamond and Silk, Paula White, Peter Karmanos, Representative Karen Whitsett of Michigan House of Representatives, and more than 30 faith leaders,” said the Trump Administration in an official statement.
During his message, Kilpatrick informed the congregation that he was influenced to start preaching by a chaplain in federal prison who instructed him to lead worship. At first, he was hesitant to sing, but the chaplain reminded him, “it’s really not about you. That’s what the Lord informed me to tell you; that’s what you’re going to do.” After leading worship for three years, God used him to start preaching to himself and then his fellow inmates.
“I learned how to pray for nobody. I learned how to worship with no audience. I learned how to preach without a single person in the room,” he shared. “I ain’t trying to trick nobody, cheat nobody, I ain’t trying to do none of that. The light is on. Look at me,” he shouted in excitement.
In addition to Kilpatrick, other individuals tied to his crimes were convicted. His friend Bobby Ferguson, a contractor, received a 21-year prison sentence. Kilpatrick and Ferguson “established a ‘pay to play’ system that made breaking the law standard operating procedure. Kilpatrick extorted city vendors, rigged bids, and took bribes,” the FBI said in November 2013. “He used funds from nonprofit civic organizations to line his pockets and those of his family. And he was unabashed about it.”
“It’s Not Time To Die” was inspired by an encounter with God when the Lord told him that it wasn’t his time to die. Coming from Acts 14:19-22, he discussed his time in prison during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, Kilpatrick observed that other inmates did not take social distancing rules seriously, laughing at the protocol. However, in short order, people in his unit became ill — with 18 people being put on ventilators and nine people dying in his prison, he said.
“It’s tough to talk about death in the times that we are living in because there’s so much death around us … I know many of you have lost family, you’ve lost a parent,” Kilpatrick said. “This has been a horrible 18 months, but I’m here to tell you it’s not time to die yet.”
Yolonda Pryor Smith came as a visitor to the church to see Kilpatrick preach.
“I believe that God has always been there moving in his life. I really believe that,” she said. “It’s very interesting to have someone that went through so much and came out on the other side. I think that he’s a perfect example of that and other people can use that to be inspired.”