Civil rights leaders: Go vote

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (right) speaks to Raleigh City Councilman Corey Branch and his wife, Chanda.

Civil rights leaders: Go vote
April 19
05:00 2018

With the May 8 primaries commencing in three weeks, and early voting beginning today through May 5, veterans of the 1960s and ’70s Civil Rights Movement came to North Carolina recently to encourage black voters to study the issues, register to vote, and cast their ballots in both the primaries and Nov. 6 midterm elections.

On Saturday, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia came to Knightdale to attend a private fundraiser for St. Augustine’s University, urging all to support HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

But the veteran civil rights hero also made the case for turning out the black vote.

Urging the predominately black audience to “Vote like never before,” Congressman Lewis credited black female Democrats in Alabama and Virginia with helping to defeat Trump-backed Republicans in the last few statewide elections..

“Men, we must get on the ball,” Lewis told his audience. “The women and the young people are going to get us there.”

“Men and women of color, with our white, Hispanic, Asian-American colleagues and friends, must come together,” Lewis continued. “If I can say anything, we’ve got to vote like we’ve never voted before!”

Rep. Lewis then recounted the legendary 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. Lewis recalled how black people in Alabama did not have the right to even register to vote without unconstitutional poll taxes.

Lewis talked about how the Alabama state troopers blocked the 600 marchers as they came over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and began beating them mercilessly with night sticks and bullwhips, and firing tear gas in an early march across the bridge.

Lewis – who was 25-years-old at the time – was seriously struck on the head, causing a concussion.

“I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die,” Lewis said, hauntingly as the audience intently listened. “But GOD Almighty kept me here.”

Lewis added that he was “so pleased” on the 50th anniversary of the Selma march to walk across the Pettus Bridge with the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.

“So we cannot give up, we cannot give in. We cannot let forces try to take us back to another time and another place.”

Led by his friend and mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a later march across the bridge that did not involve the violence of the earlier one.

Another veteran of the civil rights movement who came to North Carolina recently was Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, a native of Oxford.

Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, was in Durham April 6 to meet with black newspaper publishers statewide about strategizing to turn out North Carolina’s black vote for the midterms. North Carolina is considered to be a critical state in both the 2018 midterms, and the 2020 presidential elections.

Dr. Chavis said figures he’s seen indicate that anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 eligible African-Americans across the state were not registered to vote in 2012. Every effort must be made to significantly shrink that number for the 2018 midterm elections. All efforts must also be made to register, and then mobilize eligible young people as well, by focusing on issues of most concern to them, like police brutality, and economic opportunity.

“We must make voter registration easy [for young people],” Chavis said. “Not hard.”

Chavis also maintained that any get-out-to-vote strategy adopted by the state’s black press must be data-driven per all 100 counties. He urged black newspapers to begin reporting on the value of the black vote.

“We can’t expect other people to value us more than we do,” Dr. Chavis cautioned.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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