‘Souls to the Polls’ North Carolina Churches Get Black Voters to the Polls in Record Numbersby GDN Shared Post October 26, 2018
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RALEIGH, N.C. — More than a dozen energized voters marched through Raleigh to cast their ballot early on Sunday.
- The Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s Souls to the Polls march started at Shaw U, then to the Chavis Community Center
- The Chavis Community Center is one of 10 early voting locations in Wake County
- The march is a tradition for the organization on the first Sunday of early voting every year
The Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s Souls to the Polls march started at Shaw University, then traveled down Martin Luther King Boulevard to the Chavis Community Center in southeast Raleigh.
The Chavis Community Center is one of 10 early voting locations in Wake County.
“This is where we go ahead and put all of that protesting and all of those demonstrations into action,” said Raleigh-Apex NAACP vice president Gerald Givens, Jr. “Voting is what matters. Voting is a symbolization of hope.”
The march is a tradition for the organization on the first Sunday of early voting every year. Givens says that’s because many of the obstacles voters may face on Election Day aren’t around during early weekend voting.
“Sometimes there are long lines. Last year there were people standing in line for 2 or 3 hours,” said Givens. “That’s something we want to prevent. If you can get out here and we have those days we can get out here and vote early, we should vote early and take advantage of that.”
Early voting in North Carolina runs until November 3.
|Sunday school students discuss their way to influence their surroundings and society [Julienne Gage/Al Jazeera]|
|Churches have historically been connected to the civil rights movement [Julienne Gage/Al Jazeera]|
As non-profit organizations, churches cannot endorse candidates, but they can help people register to vote, educate them about their voting rights and ballot issues, and even open their doors to candidates who want to visit, provided they welcome candidates of all political affiliations.
Jonette Harper, an elder at First United Presbyterian and a Souls to the Polls consultant with Democracy North Carolina, is helping religious leaders throughout Charlotte to do just that.
“It is our duty to remind people that this is how and where the civil rights movement started,” she said, remembering that religious groups historically played a role in organizing for social justice, focusing on giving voice to their people.
“Religious organisations give you a foundation for your beliefs. Out of your beliefs, policies are made. The way policies are made are through voting, bills, through people we send to Congress,” she added.
Around the city, Christian as well as Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian, Buddhist, civic and youth groups have joined Souls to the Polls, educating voters about their rights and responsibilities, the latest ballot initiatives, registering people to vote and busing them to voting centers.
Back at First United Presbyterian Church, a high-ranking pastor from the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly gave a sermon so emotive and reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King that congregants raised their hands and even stood up in the pews.
“Be careful not to be a church that closes its doors to the violence, the rioters, the downtown that is changing, the struggling communities that you find yourself in from time to time,” J Herbert Nelson II preached in a booming voice from the pulpit, referencing the recent riots.