Call for Federal Voter Protections and a Common Commitment to Voting Rights

by March 12, 2014 0 comments

John Travis Holt NAACP

The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Movement Joined the Alabama-Based Saving OurSelves Coalition Today in Raleigh Yesterday

RALEIGH – The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement joined together with the Alabama-based Saving OurSelves Coalition to hold a rally and press conference yesterday in Raleigh calling upon Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength.  The Forward Together Movement welcomed the SOS Coalition yesterday afternoon as its Caravan for Democracy makes its way from Selma, Ala. to Washington DC, leaving 49 years almost to the day after civil rights leaders were beaten for daring to organize for voting rights in the Jim Crow South. Many of the assembled carried signs that memorialized the efforts and sacrifices made at Bloody Sunday in March 1965, sacrifices that spurred Congress to act on the mass disenfranchisement of African Americans by passing the Voting Rights Act later that summer.

"Every voting right has come through the blood," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "This is why we joined our friends in Selma last weekend. This is why we join them on this Freedom Ride, and this is why we will join them tomorrow in Washington DC. And this is why we will join together all over the South, united to insure that the Voting Rights Act fix proposed in Congress does not provide less than what was won 49 years ago.""

This past weekend, the Forward Together Movement joined the SOS coalition in Selma where they commemorated and honored the sacrifices that secured the VRA all those years ago. Returning to Selma was particularly meaningful this year – eight months after the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to gut the Voting Rights Act, six months after the NC General Assembly passed the worst voter suppression law seen since Jim Crow and one month after the Moral Movement brought upwards of 80,000 people to Raleigh to say to the extremists in the state legislature, "We have had enough."

Now the Forward Together Movement is prepared to stand with its brothers and sisters across the South as we fight to restore the unfettered right to vote for all citizens, regardless of color, class, creed or age.

The caravan will stop in Richmond, Va. today before arriving in Washington DC to hold a final rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Barber and members of the Forward Together Moral Movement will join the SOS activists and other voting rights advocates in the nation's capital to advocate for a full-strength fix for the Voting Rights Act. While the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Movement are glad to see the bipartisan effort from lawmakers who have introduced a bill to restore Section IV of the Act, their measure leaves out the majority of Southern states from the automatic preclearance requirement – including Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

"To say in legislation that there is not enough discrimination in Alabama to make it a preclearance state," Dr. Barber said, "to say that there is not enough discrimination in South Carolina where they fly the confederate flag or in Florida where the governor has been on a voter suppression rampage or in North Carolina where extremists just passed the worst voter suppression law since Jim Crow – it is just wrong, historically and empirically."

The assembled also heard from a number of speakers from the Alabama caravan, including Tuskegee Mayor Jerry Ford, Alabama State. Sen. Hank Sanders, Ferria Wright from the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and Faya Rose-Toure, co-chair of the Saving OurSelves Coalition. Also in attendance was Ms. Amelia Boynton Robinson, a 102 year-old civil rights activist who was beaten while marching at Bloody Sunday in Selma in 1965. 

Decrying the recent attacks on voting rights seen in North Carolina and across the nation, the speakers drew attention to how pivotal the federal voter protections enshrined in the Voting Rights Act had been for preventing the mass disenfranchisement of minority voters over nearly five decades.

"Two hours after the Supreme Court's Shelby Co. ruling, officials in Texas announced that they would begin enforcing a strict photo identification requirement for voters, which had been blocked by a federal court on the grounds that it would disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic voters," Dr. Barber said. "Right here in NC, Sen. Tom Apodaca said now that the headache was removed, we can move. And move backwards they did – passing the most regressive voter suppression bill seen since Jim Crow."

While some people traveled from Alabama and some hailed from North Carolina, every speaker stood united behind a clear message yesterday: Not on our watch. Young and old, black and white and Latino, man and woman, all took the stage to emphasize that the people would not take this rollback of fundamental voting rights without a fight.

"The Voting Rights Act was signed in blood," Dr. Barber said. "And when you mess with that law – because it's a blood document – it brings us to life. It stirs our souls."

It stirred people's feet as well. After the speeches wound down, the crowd broke out into a joyous circle of song and dance, and the Alabama caravan had to be summoned several times before the group returned to the bus and prepared to move forward to Washington DC.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.   

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