I’ll never forget that day in July of 2001, when I sat with a group of teens and their leaders in the oppressive Mississippi heat, humidity and insect-ridden grass. De-spite our surroundings, we were enraptured by the reason for our gathering, to meet Mrs. Naomi Wiggins, the first Black woman to vote in the Mississippi Delta. Her courage and conviction were on display as she shared harrowing tales of registering, voting, and working tirelessly to encourage others in the process. It was hard to believe that this elderly woman in a wheelchair had so many death threats the National Guard was protecting her home for a full year. After hearing her experiences – a pro-found, first-person history lesson – one of the teens spoke for so many in our group. “Mrs. Wiggins,” he said, “I want to thank you for what you did. Because of you, I am able to vote. I will never take this right for granted.”
Progress with regards to voting rights has been made in the past 60 years, but regress also threatens to undo so much for which so many have sacrificed. To truly honor those who have courageously acted to advance voting rights in the past, we are invited to accept the daunting task of ensuring their legacy is not thwarted, but expanded.
In the words of John Lewis, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we call the Beloved Community…Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”
I trust that you are planning to vote in the next few weeks. Please encourage people you are connected to (family, neighbors and larger community) to vote as well. Please learn about the “down ballot” candidates and initiatives in your community to ensure you utilize your vote to its fullest. Please join our Justice Jam: Voting 2020 on September 30 from 6:30-8 p.m. and encourage others to join.
If you know people who need assistance in getting their ballots to a ballot box or get-ting themselves to their voting places, please let me know by October 25 so I can arrange assistance.
LABC will host a forum on October 11 featuring Faith In Action East Bay’s voter recommendations.
Praying for peace, voting for justice,