The March, The Right And The Reason To Vote-The Orlando Times
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Did you vote? Are you registered to vote? Who are you voting for?
“Vote” is a term that’s controversial, conventional and consequential at once. The term speaks to an empowered populace and potentially empowers a disempowered populace. It’s what our ancestors sacrificed themselves for and simultaneously has retained the power of those who sacrificed our ancestors.
2018 marks a year of midterm elections, as eleven seats, including Governor are up for election. Florida, like many states, witnesses a drop off of voter participation in the off years that there are no votes for the President of the United States.
According to statistics compiled from the Florida Supervisor of Elections office, 2014 only produced forty-one percent voter turnout in Florida, in comparison with the 2012 Presidential contest, which brought out seventy-two percent of voters within Florida.
In Alabama, Black women made a difference in the recent election, turning the state from Red to Blue for the first time in the state’s history, by voting for Doug Jones, over candidate Roy Moore. The number of female candidates running in Texas doubled to fifty, ahead of their March 6 primary. There are two times as many women running for Congress nationwide in comparison with 2016, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.
Within the context of the United States, the struggle to secure the Black vote was equally reinforced by systemically created struggles to vote. As Frederick Douglas remarked however, “where there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
The Reconstruction era of America produced Black political power throughout the South, yet Hiram Revels and Charles Stewart were both reminded of the Dredd Scott decision and the Meritorious Manumission ruling. Stewart, a trainer of other slaves who had the liberality to move between plantation to plantation could only do so at the expense of other slaves.
America’s prison population was boosted in the late nineteenth century with the passage of vagrancy laws for Black men, women and children.
Black families that had been freed from plantation life post-Civil War were arrested for everything from “homelessness”, to reading to looking a white person in the eye, under the various vagrancy laws established to keep Black families incarcerated and in debt.
The Black church in America was founded as a political bastion for Black life, where culture, commerce and education were shared. The pastor was often the best political representative as he would bargain with city leaders and organize rallies and boycotts, should bargaining prove ineffective. Rev. E.D. Nixon and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked together in Alabama early on to combat both busing and voting inefficiencies.
Rev. Adam Clayton Powell emerged from the church as the leading Congressman for Black America for many decades, although his principal district covered Harlem, NY. In total, Powell won re-election ten times and passed one-hundred four bills throughout his tenure, more than any other Congressman in United States history.
Thousands marched across the Selma Bridge in 1965, facing tanks, water hoses, cattle prods and police batons in the process.
Today, our people are confronted with a similar bridge, yet instead of its’ physicality, the bridge has manifested systematically.
Instead of batons, there are voter rolls. In place of water hoses, there’s one sided political correctness and instead of tanks, there are domestic terrorists, which don’t wear berets or fatigues, but three piece suits, robes and gavels.
July Perry lost his life in Ocoee for registering people of color to vote. Our ancestors were betithed by poll taxes, voting exams which often asked them humiliating questions such as, “how many bubbles are there on a bar of soap?”
Thirty-one years after July Perry’s demise, Harry T. Moore and Harriet V. Moore, husband and wife Crusaders for voter’s rights within Florida, were killed when a bomb exploded beneath their home in Mims, Florida.
Our community is faced with the reality of marginalization, wherein we’re gentrified from our communities, gerrymandered from our voting districts and alienated from our representatives.