In 2008, first-time voters shocked the nation as they waited patiently in line, literally for hours upon hours, to cast their vote in a Presidential election that would go down in the history books. It was young people — and people of color especially — who propelled Barack Obama into office by their sheer numbers.
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It was great moment. We all celebrated and rejoiced, but then did nothing. We took it easy during the 2010 midterms and watched Tea Party extremists take over Congress, and in the time since, sadly, most of us have just been sitting back not doing much. Meanwhile, conservatives and all those counting on you to stay at home have been passing voter ID laws, immigration bills and other things to help guarantee that your voice will be silenced. Because my generation and those even younger have such small attention spans, and have stopped focusing on what is really happening out here, let me remind you: Your fundamental rights are in jeopardy at this very moment. So instead of just going for self, minding your business, or just not caring, it’s time to wake up, get up off your behind and do something. There’s no time to waste.
This Sunday, on March 4th, National Action Network, led by Rev. Al Sharpton, will head down South to where it all began to Selma, Alabama. From the 4th through the 9th, we will march, camp and rally en route from Selma to Montgomery where we will culminate the week’s activities in front of the Alabama State Capitol. We’ll march at least 10 miles a day, everyday in unison with community leaders, activists, civil rights advocates and anyone who understands the emergency of the moment.
The historic Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 consisted of three separate marches that brought such attention to inequality in the U.S. that it soon led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, and marked the emotional and political peak of the Civil Rights Movement. Today, when we find those very liberties under attack across the country, we will once again walk, campaign, congregate and rally from Selma to Montgomery to remind us all just what’s at stake. And we’re honored to be joined by Congressman John Lewis who helped lead the march of ’65.
Virginia recently became the 31st state to have voter ID laws on the books. For decades, Americans have been voting and proving their identity with utility bills or other acceptable forms of ID. Now suddenly, individual states want to enact these ID requirements that clearly target the poor, minorities and, yes, young people. While you’re busy trying to get that corner office, or becoming CEO of a corporation, there are forces at work trying to deny you the very basic right of voting in your own country. And at the same time, in Alabama, legislatures passed the most reprehensible, down-right racist anti-immigration bill yet. Trying to intimidate Latinos, immigrants and others, lawmakers in Alabama simply can’t accept the fact that their demographics are changing — much like the rest of the nation.
Many people say the Civil Rights Movement found its voice in Alabama. Well we’re heading back there to let everyone hear loud and clear: we will not let you steal our votes, we will not let you steal the election and we will not let you steal the rights we fought so hard to obtain. And to all the young folks out here, nobody’s telling you to stop striving for your goals – that would be foolish and unproductive. Just remember that you should put as much effort into being connected to the movement. After all, your own future hangs in the balance.
Join us in Selma or en route to Montgomery, and if you can’t, see what other ways you can help out: nationalactionnetwork.net