John Lewis tells students: ‘Everything is on the line’

Civil rights icon urges Blacks to vote during rally with B-CU students

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

When Bethune-Cookman University students marched to the Daytona Beach City Island Regional Library on Tuesday to vote, one of the country’s greatest civil rights leaders marched right along with them.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity members at B-CU make their position on voting clear on Tuesday. (DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY. COM)
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity members at B-CU make their position on voting clear on Tuesday.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY. COM)

Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who risked his life as a young man for voting rights for Blacks, was among the more than 400 students and area community leaders who participated in the march and rally at the library, one of the city’s early voting sites.

‘We must vote’
At a rally outside of the library, Lewis spoke about the importance of voting and what it took to get that right.

“There are forces that want to take things back to the old days of segregation and old ways of doing things. We are not moving backward, we are moving forward,’’ he said.

Lewis added, “We must vote. We can’t stay at home. Everything is on the line. The future of this nation, the future of our world. We deserve to know what is in our food, water and air. Everything we do has something to do with the vote.”

Along with Lewis, actress Aja Naomi King of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder’’ and U.S. Senate Patrick Murphy were in attendance.

Students respond
Kelly Elysee was one of the hundreds of B-CU students who participated in the march.

“This is awesome,” she told the Daytona Times. “This is my first time doing one of these. I feel like I am part of a movement.’’

Angel Cantero responded, “It’s great that everyone came together for this. We came out with our school and our fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.”

Sophomore Tavarshea Williams said she voted on Oct. 25.

“I figured to go ahead and do it instead of waiting. The process was smooth and quick. I vote to have my voice heard. It’s important. It shapes the future. I am just a little disappointed that I don’t see more melanated people taking advantage of it.”

B-CU also has been busing students to early voting since it began in Volusia on Oct. 24.

“We have identified voting opportunities including early voting. We encourage early voting because unforeseen circumstances can prevent voting on Election Day, said Dr. Claudette McFadden, professor of Communication Studies, Theater and Dance at B-CU.

McFadden also is co-director of B-CU’s Political Action Task Force.

“Early voting allows students living off campus to vote at City Island, which is near campus no matter where they live in the county,’’ she added.

‘No excuse’
The Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance and Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP chapter also participated Tuesday.

They held the “Souls to the Polls’’ on Oct. 30 at the same location with food, music, speakers and around 300 participants.

“Our event was a success. We were also able to kill two birds with one stone as we were able to feed many of the homeless that came out. We are really pushing early voting. There is no excuse not to vote,” commented the Rev. Derrick Harris, president of the Daytona Black Clergy Alliance.

Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater remarked, “We are very excited about the event and early voting. Our charge is to make sure that voters aren’t disenfranchised and that their vote counts.”

Churches engaged
Black clergy across the county are collaborating to get people to the polls. Churches are getting information out to their members, getting information out to barbershops, beauty shops and doorsteps. Some are providing rides to the polls.

“This is what most spiritual leaders wanted. It’s important that we take the lead. Our petitioners look to us for answers. We must be civically engaged,” Harris noted.

New Smyrna Beach held its “Souls to the Polls’’ event on Oct. 30 at its library with about 250 people participating.

“It’s been effective in getting people out to vote. This is our most polarized election in history. We have had the best turnout so far this election year,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Dove, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church in New Smyrna.

‘Quick and easy’
Katina Mallory was one of the local residents who decided to vote early and not wait until the general election day on Nov. 8. Mallory said she voted on Tuesday morning.

“It is the public’s responsibility to vote, especially in regards to our history. Many people fought and died for us to be able to vote. We also have a responsibility to our children to vote to better their future. It was quick and easy to vote early. Everyone was friendly and respectful.”

Oliver Ross, who voted on Oct. 25, added, “I did it to beat the long lines on Election Day. It’s smoother and faster, especially compared to earlier years.”

Debra Thompson said she voted on Oct. 24, the first day of early voting.

“All should take advantage of this. Voting is a way to have your voice heard, address issues and right wrongs,” Thompson said.

By the numbers
As of Tuesday, the Volusia County Department of Elections website showed that 62,013 registered voters had voted early and 60,670 mail ballots had been submitted.

Volusia County has 386,689 registered voters.

In Daytona Beach, 13,459 people voted early, including a daily high of 1,911 on Tuesday, the day of the B-CU event. That daily total is the highest of all early voting sites in the county.

New Smyrna Beach has had the highest total early vote count at 13,673 votes cast.

“We are pleased with turnout with both early voting and vote-by-mail numbers. It will only get busier as we get closer to the general election,” responded Lisa Lewis, Volusia County’s supervisor of Elections.

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