WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Voting has to be important 365 days a year. If we are to realize the changes we want to see in our leadership, in education, and our quality of life issues, we must vote,” said A. Shuanise Washington, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation president and CEO.
Such was the sentiment and tone of urgency during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s National Town Hall meeting Sept. 25 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in N.W. D.C.
At the event, attorney and civil rights icon Elaine Jones joined co-chairs Reps. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and John Lewis (D-Ga.).
From the suspension of voting rights for those convicted of felonies, to the inability to answer the increased abuse of police power against African Americans across the nation, panelists collectively pointed to securing social justice and equality through voting.
While moderator Jeff Johnson spoke on the lack of resources set aside to educate Black voters and ensure they register and participate in local and national elections, the panelists largely pointed to the historical roadblocks they and their parents faced in not only seizing the ballot but also ensuring they maintained any footing they gained through active electoral participations.
“Black people have been losing the vote and trying to hang on to the vote ever since they gained it in 1870. This is nothing new,” Jones said. “When did this country decide it wanted to challenge the Voting Rights Act? Three days after Barack Obama was elected. We must educate ourselves and our children constantly on maintaining the right to vote or we end up with legislation that slowly chips away from it until it is gone. The problem is that we vote for people, rather than for issues.”