About 200 area residents crowded into the Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Burgaw Thursday night to hear the Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), speak about issues affecting black voters as the presidential election approaches.
His appearance was part of a statewide get out the vote tour including planned stops in Pitt, Martin, Pender, Nash/Edgecombe, Pasquotank, Moore, Halifax, Mecklenburg, Scotland, Guilford, Harnett, Forsyth and Cumberland counties before Nov. 6. The campaign has already made stops in Chatham, Wake, Durham and Vance counties.
After recognizing NAACP chapter presidents in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, Barber outlined major issues affecting black voters this election season.
"When you understand the history of voter suppression in this nation, then you understand why the NAACP and the civil rights community will challenge any attempt to suppress, block or limit the right to vote as afforded by our Constitution," he said, referring to several states with new voter ID laws this year. "The values that people ought to consider when voting this year should be: economic sustainability, addressing poverty, full employment and labor rights, educational equality for all students and children; healthcare for all and ensuring access to Medicare and Medicaid, addressing the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system for black, brown and poor white people; and protecting, defending and expanding voting rights for all people. If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now!”
Among the cheering, hand clapping crowd at the church worship service/rally were also area politicians, pastors, state NAACP fourth Vice President Courtney Patterson, NAACP State District Director Harold Beatty and Bobbi Simpson of the Burgaw office for President Barack Obama's reelection.
Barber said “all politicians seeking our vote” should be asked hard questions about their views on prisons, gay marriage, health care, education and democracy. Noting that there are many tricks and shady doings going on that promote and add to voter oppression. He said the black vote also seems to be under siege.
He ended with this analogy about voting. “If voting is the heart of the matter, this country has a heart problem," he said, "and by not voting, the heart in question may get coded and need a heart defibrilator, immediately!”
To encourage the vote, Barber asked his audience to "use Facebook, Twitter, and text and call 10 people and suggest that they call 10 people and so on. And if you do not know how to do any of that, you better ask somebody," he said, ending with a chuckle.
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