Opening Remarks at Public Forum on Restoring and Expanding the Voting Rights Act
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Laborer’s International Union 310, Cleveland, Ohio
Welcome to this community forum on restoring and expanding the voting rights act.
The August 24 Washington, DC rally marking the 50th Anniversary of the historic1963 March for Jobs and Freedom featured literally dozens of speakers in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The themes of their reflections varied considerably.
Some speakers focused on looking back at the champions of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, while others focused on those who are presently engaged in the struggle.
Some reflected on dreams and visions, others on cold hard facts and realities.
Some spoke about threats to civil rights and civil liberties, others commented on the threats to labor rights and to meeting basic economic needs.
And some celebrated the political and economic achievements, in particular of African Americans, over the last half-century, while others reminded us that in many respects economic conditions for African American are worse today. In other words, some addressed how far the movement has come, others how far we still must go.
Despite differing messages from different messengers, there was unanimity on many points by those who specifically referenced the horrific June 25 Supreme Court 5-4 decision gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
- The Supremes blew it.
- The 5 “robed ones” on the High Court who voted to scrap Section 4 of the Act are out of touch with reality.
- Voting discrimination has not ended. If anything, voting protections should be expanded to states where proposed legislative barriers to voting are persistent
- Grassroots education and organizing is essential to pressure Congress to counteract the Court’s decision.
Several speakers went even further to advocate for a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for all. As speaker after speaker proclaimed, the Voting Rights Act was one of the greatest pieces of legislation on equality in our nation’s history.
The unanimity on the 50th anniversary rally in DC to protect and expand Voting Rights exists in all 50 states of our nation. Individuals and organizations are coming together just like hear today to learn, connect, strengthen relationships, commit to taking action, and plan to build a multiracial, multi-generational and politicallyindependent movement. Hopefully, this movement not only reacts to threats to voting barriers – be they to people of color, young people and senior citizens – but proacts, that is, joins with others in our region, state and nation for genuinely inclusive laws and rules expanding the right to vote. The creation of broad-based social movements are how significant rights have been won in the past. It’s going to be how they are protected now and expanded in the future.
Is this not the least we can do to protect what’s left of our democratic republic?
Your presence here today is very important in the quest to both learn and act. Many before us have waged thesame struggle. Your presence demonstrates that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. It is now our turn, our time, and our responsibility to protect and expand voting rights for all.