“Fired up! Ready to go!”
From the south steps of the Indiana Statehouse Thursday, members and supporters of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and the Indiana Moral Mondays movement announced plans to increase the voter rolls in Indiana.
The chanting could be not be ignored by passersby on their lunch hour downtown.
<>Indiana NAACP president Barbara Bolling Williams set a goal of 10,000 people to be added as new registered voters between now and the Oct. 6 deadline.
The date of the announcement for a new voter empowerment plan was no accident It was August 28, 1955, when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American teen, was brutally beaten and shot to death, then thrown into the Tallahatchie River for allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi. It was August 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. And on August 28, 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech as the presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO.
August 28 is an important date for the NAACP and their voter empowerment plan.
“Dr. [Martin Luther] King pledged to return to states like Indiana and the south and places where change needed to happen,” said Williams, “And the extremists have hijacked the state legislatures in Indiana and the south. We can stop the extremist movement, move it back, and move it to the way it ought to be.”
The voter empowerment campaign carries Dr. King in its motto and theme, “We will vote with our dreams and not our fears.”
The Moral Mondays movement, which began in North Carolina last year and has since spread to 13 other states including Indiana, has voter rights among the six moral issues addressed in its mission statement. And according to former State Representative Bill Crawford (D-98), we must “exercise every tool in our toolbox to make sure our issues are addressed.”
“We are not afraid.”
The chanting changed, but was still strong though somewhat sporadic.
State NAACP Political Action Chair Sadie Harper Scott said the voter empowerment plan will target youth, the elderly, and those who believe they have no right to vote. Once voter registration closes Oct. 6, the campaign will shift to education activities so voters can learn about the issues and the candidates. The plan also includes a follow-up component to make sure those registered to vote get to the polls, vote early or vote absentee. Last year, the NAACP registered 6,000 voters. This year, Scott says they will take the campaign to the streets.
Several community leaders and statehouse representatives made remarks about the importance of the campaign, the need for people to vote and how that vote can and must make a difference.
Former NFL running back and Indianapolis native Devin Moore spoke about getting young adults involved, using his status to raise his voice — and make that voice and others count. The Ten Point Coalition’s Rev. Charles Ellis connected the violence in the city to the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that exists among some people and how getting out the vote to make change can turn that tide toward peace. Others talked about the need for change and voter education.
Most of the people coming out of the statehouse or walking along the sidewalk past the gathering looked on with mild interest or chose not to acknowledge what was in front of them at all. Still, those in attendance strengthened their resolve to not be ignored by anyone, especially those public officials elected to represent them.
Nancy Holle with Indiana Moral Mondays said, “the light for justice is flickering, but we need it to burn brightly.”
The Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP recently finished training volunteers for their Get Out The Vote initiative and will soon begin door-to-door canvassing. The organization plans to specifically target neighborhoods and locations that have historically shown very low voter turnout.