Commentary: Local heroes refuse to be silent victims

Commentary: Local heroes refuse to be silent victims
July 02
00:00 2015

In above photo: Felecia P. Long

Community mobilization committee moves forward as litigation nears

Felecia P. Long, Guest Columnist

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
— Thomas Paine

The American Crisis is a collection of articles written by Thomas Paine during the various crises of the American Revolutionary War. This first essay was even delivered to the troops at Valley Forge as a source of inspiration during battle.

In that same spirit, the leaders and members of the Moral Monday Movement and those involved in the Community Mobilization Committee are engrossed in a battle. We have heroes among us. In a recent Journal article (June 25) Rev. William Barber, president of the N. C. Chapter of the NAACP, stated that the noisy protest of the state NAACP at the N. C. legislative building in Raleigh led to changes in the voter ID law, but I am sure he would also say let the group not be betrayed by a kiss.

According to Barber, this amendment is just “an 11th-hour attempt to gain public support for the legislation before the trial.”

Barber is discerning and committed to justice for the people. The Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church; Barber; and Linda Sutton of Democracy NC have been on the battlefield for decades, and they ain’t tired yet. They have been called to this spirit work, and it shall be done!

They and their followers are to be commended for refusing to be silent in the face of tyranny in the state of North Carolina. Members of this committee hail from the state and local NAACP, the Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, Emmanuel Baptist Church Social Action Ministry, Democracy NC and other interested agencies who assist with the Moral Monday marches and demonstrations.

Since August 2013, when Gov. Pat McCrory signed the North Carolina “Voter Suppression Law,” members of this grassroots organization called the Community Mobilization Committee have ceased to be silent. Mendez has made his church available for weekly meetings of these various grassroots organizations.

Also, Mendez has made his church vans available for the “All Souls to the Polls” rally and motorcade for early voting. On the last Sunday in October, voters followed in cars to United Metropolitan Baptist Church and proceeded to march to the Board of Elections for early voting in 2014. Mendez also made the vans accessible for trips to Raleigh to protest the tyrannical direction of the Republican-based legislature in the General Assembly.

Patricia Sadler and Dot Hill, leaders of the Emmanuel Political Action Ministry, continue to collaborate with members of the NAACP to recruit new members to agitate for change. They often prepared bagged lunches for demonstrators, helped on a weekly basis to distribute literature about various community issues, marched, participated in voter registration and continued to recruit more supporters. In addition, they make sure that many of the pamphlets are translated in Spanish so that a more diverse population can participate in meaningful dialog.

What are they fighting for? These soldiers will not shrink from service. Even on Valentine’s Day, they boarded a bus bound for Raleigh at 6:30 a.m. in order to articulate the concerns of the people of North Carolina. They want the General Assembly to know that eliminating a week of early voting is not acceptable to those who need the flexibility of voting hours in order for them to participate in the voting process. Early voting days enabled low-income voters to coordinate proper transportation methods in 2008 and 2012. Seventy percent of African-American voters took advantage of the early voting option . They let the legislature know that ending same-day voter registration and voting would also curtail the number of African-American voters participating.

According to the Advancement Project, voters of color are more likely to use early voting and same-day registration. African-Americans comprise 22 percent of voters in North Carolina, but they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration, and cast out-of-precinct ballots at twice the rate of whites.

In fact, voter turnout among North Carolina’s black voters climbed from 41.9 percent in 2000 to 68.5 percent in 2012. Early voting and same-day registration were key voting practices that were most effective.

Some workers, such as Mendez and Bass, have been arrested for standing up for their rights.

The work by local organizations has been made easier to accomplish for events like the upcoming July 13 “Voter Suppression” case to be held here in Winston-Salem because of the groundwork the Rev. Willard Bass, assistant pastor of Green Street Baptist Church, Mendez and so many others have provided.

During the weekly meetings of the committee since June 9 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, people such as Laurel Ashton, NAACP field secretary; Kim Porter; Dot Hill; [Winston-Salem] NAACP President Ike Howard; and Linda Sutton have met along with with three college interns: Vashti Hinton of North Carolina A&T State University, Keith Chapelle of UNC-Chapel Hill, and Amanda Billips of Forsyth Tech.

Several college students continue to get involved because they take issue with their being unable to use their college identification cards to vote as they once did. They are to be celebrated for letting their voices be heard. They demonstrate in Raleigh and at various rallies. They also attend the weekly meetings and distribute literature in the community at various sites.

So many people may wish for peace during our own time, but these warriors understand the value of their present sacrifice and trouble so that their posterity will fall heir to the rights they have wrangled for. I salute these watchmen, heroes and heroines who continue to wage war against tyranny. Yes, these are the times that try men’s and women’s souls. We must not give up the fight but join the ranks of these warriors for justice and freedom. Thank you for listening to that still small voice within.

Felecia P. Long is a local educator and freelance writer.

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