Celeste Taylor said it was appropriate that the Black Political Empowerment Project celebration of the Voting Rights Act 50-year anniversary was held at the Freedom Corner monument, which is undergoing much needed renovation.
“Much like Freedom Corner, the Voting Rights Act is still under construction,” she said. “This work continues. I see voting as one of the most important tools in keeping African Americans relevant. I thank people like Tim Stevens and Alma Speed Fox for continuing this fight. Power to the people.”
Taylor joined Stevens and about 50 others, young and old, Black and White, to mark the anniversary at Freedom Corner Aug. 5. Stevens noted that even as they marked the anniversary in Pittsburgh, others were doing so simultaneously in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
Pennsylvania ACLU director Vitold Walczak said he was humbled to stand with such people.
“Voting is foundational,” he said. “Because if you can’t vote, you can’t protect your other rights. In Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, even Washington state, we continue to see games played with redistricting. Voting means access, and we need to update this state’s election laws so that every eligible voter can have their voices heard.”
League of Women Voters President Annette Shimer said the voting rights fight is not over because for 50 years, those who didn’t like the Voting Rights Act have been pushing to undo it.
“We need the act to be made permanent,” she said. “We are also pushing for online registration and neutrality in redistricting.”
Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh President and CEO Esther Bush said the legacy of Fox, Byrd Brown, Robert Lavelle and others who fought for African American rights including the right to vote, is in danger.
“Instead of just celebrating the Voting Rights Act 50 years later, we have to be here to advocate restoring it teeth,” she said. “We stand with the national Urban League in promoting the Voting Rights Advancement Act—same day registration, automatic registration, and no-excuses absentee ballots. Join us in a better day for Pennsylvania and for America.”
As Stevens thanked all those who spoke, he said he had great hope.
“I have hope because, thankfully, not everyone here is my age,” he said. “This isn’t just about us old heads. It’s about the future, and people like this young lady.”
With that, he introduced Brigette Bethea and her 6-month-old son, Chase Patterson.
“This is an important day for me, but more so for my son,” she said. “Too often, we don’t have a voice. I’m former military, and I will keep voting because it affects him and his ability to vote in the future.”
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