Requested by demand! This week of civil rights celebration – this was first posted in October 2014!
In less than a month the entire country will embark on the most important civil right held by each citizen 18 years or older. Civil rights ensure a persons ability to participate in the civil and political life of a state and society without discrimination or repression. The right to vote is considered the corner stone to all of our other rights. It is our fundamental right and should be cherished as so.
My maternal great-grandmother was Lillian Lula Walker (my mom’s namesake) a Republican who moved to Newark, NJ in the early 1950’s. She was one of those black community leaders who believed in the Republican Party because Lincoln had freed the slaves. She was a party loyalist voting for that party until her final days. I remember a story my grandfather, her eldest told us about his mother’s “stubborn ways”.
In the 1960 Presidential election my great-grandmother was ready to go out and cast her republican vote. By this time in her life, she relied upon the family for travel to and from places. The family decided not to take her to the Polls as she was not overly impressed by the young chap from Massachusetts running on the Democratic ticket.
Lillian got up November 8, 1960 got dressed and prepared to go to the polls to cast her vote for Richard Nixon. The family was having none of that and no one would drive her to the polls, not even her favorite son, my grandfather. But have no fears, she was not deterred. As I said Lillian was a community leader, she fought for the right to vote in her home state of Alabama; had registered hundreds to vote and had been involved in politics as soon as she was legally able. She got on the phone, called the Essex County Republican Party leaders and they sent a car with a volunteer to pick her up and take her to the Polls. That November 8, 1960 and every election day she was able to do so, Lillian Lula Walker cast her vote.
My family cherished the right to vote. Many of them living in Newark, NJ had no problems voting. But they always remembered the family they left behind in the South, who did not get that legal right until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and with the wait many years after that for the implementation of this law. Some would say that they continue to fight for the right to vote.
My grandfather took me with him to the Polls each election. He would let me ride with him when he drove people from the neighborhood to the polls. My mother registered people to vote until her final days. She was living in the Charlotte, NC area and joined Rev. Barber of the NAACP in his work around NC to increase voter education, get out the vote and protect voter rights. My first election was June 2, 1987 in the NJ State primary elections for the state legislature.
I was blessed to attend a high school where my principal would not allow a senior to graduate if they had not registered to vote. Although, I graduated from high school at the age of 17, as our ceremony was in early May, she still made sure I registered. The League of Women Voters came to our school once a month and registered students who would be eligible for voting. I joined them that year and remain an active member wherever I live. They have been a wonderful resource, assisted me with voter registration, outreach and been wonderful mentors to me.
During this election season, when you go to your polling site to cast your vote, remember the millions of lives lost; the number of people imprisoned for trying to cast a ballot; the millions of people who are barred from participating in elections of any kind for reasons out of their control; the millions of prisoners here in the US stripped of this right and those formerly incarcerated persons who have not regained their right to vote due to lack of compassion by others who have yet to provide them with a “second chance”.
You history buffs and policy wonks know this! In 1960 Richard Nixon lost the election with 49.6% of the votes. The other guy had 49.7% of the votes to win and there was a 112,827 vote difference that made John F. Kennedy the 35th President of the United States of America; and the rest as they say is history.
Your vote matters and don’t let anyone tell you different!