How will you celebrate Black History Month?

How will you celebrate Black History Month?
February 05
00:00 2015

In January, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Various organizations marked Dr. King’s birthday in various ways, such as forums, service days and performances.

Now the attention turns to Black History Month. For many African-Americans, February is a month to take a look at where we have come from and how far we can go. It is a time to absorb the words of wise older people and marvel at the youth as they make presentations and learn about the past.

This year, February could be a crucial month to prepare for the history that could be made, history that has a bitter taste.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law on Aug. 6.
In the 1960s, Americans of various hues joined black Americans in fighting against laws that made it hard for black Americans to register to vote. They marched and fought legal battles while they were attacked and some were killed. Then in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. That changed the landscape for black Americans.
For instance, something that seems like an afterthought now was out of reach for black Americans before the ’65 law. In the movie “Selma,” it was pointed out that juries were all white because the jury pools were taken from voter registration lists. If black people aren’t registered to vote, then they can’t serve on juries. If they are not on juries, they can’t review legal cases involving black people.
Across the country and in North Carolina, new laws have been used to water down the federal law by requiring specific voter identification at the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court contributed to that effort by ruling in 2013 that nine states, mostly in the South, can change their election laws without advance federal approval, which they had to have before the ruling. The court, in a 5-4 decision, said the country has changed.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority: “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
President Barack Obama urged the Republican-controlled Congress to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, but congressional leaders have indicated that they have no intention of doing that.
Beginning in 2016, North Carolina will require voters to show a photo identification when they vote in person.
The Voter Information Verification Act or “VIVA” (S.L. 2013-381) is the law that changes how North Carolinians can gain access to the polls to vote. Until 2016, most voters will not be required to show any form of identification when they vote.
So, why change the law if you don’t need an ID now? 2016 will be the year a new president will be chosen. We all know what happened in 2008 and 2012: Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States and was re-elected to a second term. Who knows what could happen in 2016: The first woman president could be elected.
The fight against the North Carolina law already has begun. On Friday, Jan. 30, a hearing was held in Wake County court to hear critics of the law. North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations argue that the voter ID law oversteps the bounds of the state Constitution.
So, as we celebrate Black History Month, we should take some time to really know our history and then prepare for the new history that will be made. Unfortunately, history is known to repeat itself.


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