On January 17th, 2022, MLK day, the Chicago Alliance mobilized over 100 people in over 80 cars gathered in Washington Park to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by uplifting the demand for voting rights. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Freedom to Vote Act are before the U.S. Senate for a vote this week, and the people of Chicago joined in the nationwide demand to pass this legislation NOW! Read more details below:
Powerful speakers from a wide range of organizations drove home the significance of this demand for the Black liberation movement as a whole, and the entire multinational working class. Kobi Guillory, of the CAARPR and BLM Chicago, started off the program saying "We're out here in the deep cold because no matter what the weather is, no matter what time it is, we have to fight for our freedom. And that's what Martin Luther King Jr understood. And that's what every single person here understands is that every single day we have to struggle for our freedom. We've been struggling ever since this country was colonized, and our people were brought here in chains, we have been fighting for our freedom. And we have been fighting for freedom around the world."
Frank Chapman, Executive Director for the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, laid out the issue "Getting these bills passed means stopping the reactionary Republican Party from suppressing the right to vote, from blatantly denying masses of Black, brown, and poor people the right to vote. This is a racist, Republican-engineered war against our people. And unless we stand up and fight back it will be a one-sided war."
Bishop Tavis Grant from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition added "Those who are blocking this legislation are doing so in the spirit of Bull Connor, of George Wallace. They don't just want you not to vote. They don't want your vote to count. There are 800,000 seniors right now who are on waiting lists, who cannot get home healthcare services that they're blocking. They are blocking labor, they are blocking education, they are blocking critical services that people need. And this is what they need to know. No matter what you do to stop us, you cannot stop the vote."
Jazmine Salas, with CAARPR, added "I am so glad to see so many Black people, Latine people, white people, people from the Southside, Northside, Westside united here today to fight this attack on our democracy. In addition to the Chicago chapter, the National Alliance has also put out a national call to take action across the country in solidarity with this demand.
Erica Bland-Durosinmi, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana added "We are at a crossroads of the conscience of this country, and it's not the first time that we've been here. We've seen the same thing happen during Reconstruction, we've seen the same thing happen with the movement. And we're here to say that labor is with the movement. We stand together one day longer, one day stronger. We stand here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are marching across the country today to say democracy is the foundation of all we do, and as long as we have breath in our bodies, we will stand, we will march, we will fight together to make sure that our rights are guaranteed."
Kobi Guillory also reminded us "Dr. Martin Luther King was fighting alongside labor when he was assassinated. He also said that the white moderate is the biggest stumbling block to Black liberation. We see that white moderate represented by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and while the Republicans do everything they can do to disenfranchise Black communities, white moderates are standing by and letting that happen. But we will not let that happen, and that's why we're standing here today."
Lashawn Lattrice, founder of Make Noize for Change, made it clear that "These congresspeople are not doing their jobs, and what we're going to do is hold them accountable. By standing out here in unity and forming coalitions across the country, we are making it clear that we will not stand for voter suppression. We are honoring Dr. King's legacy by pushing for these voting rights acts that already should have been passed. We shouldn't have to fight for what is right, but we are determined."
Jamie Fluker of SOUL, added her voice to this call, "We stand on the shoulders of freedom fighters who have come before us, like Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King, and today we invoke their spiritual courage and their persistent thirst for justice. We are motivated by a moral calling that fuels us to work towards an envisioned society that is just and equal. And because we understand that access to the ballot box means that people, all people are empowered to shape national politics, we will keep showing up and demanding justice. So, when the poll taxes were created, we showed up. When literacy tests were required, we showed up. When terror and acts of violence took place, we showed up. When intimidation was a tactic of the oppressor, we showed up. And here we are again. When strict voter I.D. laws were passed, we're here showing up. When access to the voter polls is under attack, we are here, showing up. The Christian tradition teaches me that faith without works is dead, and today we are very much alive."
Bertha Escamilla, with CAARPR and Mamas Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity (MAMAS), reminded us of the breadth and the stake of the fight for freedom, saying "I am here today in support of the demand for voting rights. I am also calling on Governor Pritzker to free all survivors of police torture and wrongful conviction. We will not accept a corrupt system taking advantage of our children and our prisoners. The mothers I work with continue staying up at night wondering if our loved ones are alive or dead. We refuse to allow elected officials who make false promises to get away with ignoring prisoners."
After the rally, the caravan traveled up King Drive to 26th St, stopping briefly at the Monument to the Great Northern Migration, honking our horns and spreading our message all throughout the community, that we need voting rights legislation NOW!
It was a powerful gathering of people and organizations across the movement, from community organizations to labor organizations to faith-based organizations, united in the demand to defend the democratic rights of the people. The U.S. Senate must do the right thing, and pass this legislation NOW.
By their refusal to fight back against nationwide voter suppression, it is clear that the Democrats are taking the votes of Black and Brown people for granted. It is not enough to boycott Biden’s speech in Georgia. It must be made clear that our votes are contingent on them fighting for our interests. Today’s caravan was a message: No more free lunches for the Democrats!