“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.”
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was March 7, 1965, when a peace group of civil rights activists, led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams, tried to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with about 525 peaceful demonstrators to the state capital in Montgomery, Ala. Fed up with the injustice African Americans were experiencing, these civil rights leaders led a march that has infamously now become known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Bloody Sunday was a very chaotic and stressful day as African Americans were being terrorized by whites simply because they decided that they were going to register to vote. While many of us take for granted the “right and privilege” to vote, just forty-seven years ago many were ridiculed, harassed, terrorized, abused, beaten and killed simply because they wanted the right to vote.
Additionally, because many dared to register to vote, they experienced economic hardships, were refused federal food aid, credit at local banks and stores, and some were fired from their jobs. Indeed, it was because of this unrest that civil rights activists decided to have a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery to raise the issue of injustice being inflicted upon those who have been kissed by nature’s sun.
Indeed, it was because television networks broadcasted the attacks of “Bloody Sunday” nationwide that created such an outrage in the African-American community but also embarrassed and humiliated white America and further exposed the hypocrisy and dualism of our democracy. With this sympathy for the marchers, Alabama police had to finally give in to the second march led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other religious leaders, on March 9, 1965. Aided by the National Guard, the marchers finally arrived at the State Capitol building on March 25th with more 25,000 supporters. Shortly after this victory, the United States Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which forced states to end discriminatory voting practices.
As you may know by now, the Republicans in Pennsylvania have passed Act 18, which seeks to suppress our vote by changing the Voter ID laws. By making these changes to the laws, minority voters are disproportionately affected across the country. On July 5, 2012, the Daily News reported that “More than 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have photo identification cards from the state Transportation Department, putting their voting rights at risk in the November election, according to data released Tuesday by state election officials.”
Now this may seem discouraging, but we have an opportunity to turn this around! Over the past few weeks, the PA Voter ID Coalition has been working to build a strong and resilient collaboration with the diverse communities of faith in Philadelphia to maximize voter education. At 6 p.m. today at Bright Hope Baptist Church, located at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, faith leaders and concerned citizens of Philadelphia will gather for a Voter ID rally and education seminar. Please come and bring your family, friends and neighbors to the important Voter ID rally as we seek to education our community and turnout the vote for the Nov. 6 elections.
As always, keep the faith!
Dr. Kevin R. Johnson is the senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church.