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Voting is a Privilege and an Opportunity for Civic Engagement

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Early voting started recently and will continue until November 4. It is our opportunity to vote for the candidates of our choice.

As a citizen, I do not take voting for granted. My ancestors did not always have the chance to vote. Poll Tax laws and other bogus rules were passed to keep African Americans from the voting booth.

I was a rising senior in high school in August 1965. I will let you know later the significance of this month and year. My view of the world and the challenges we faced were limited but there were some things that caught my attention.

Living in the South, I do remember there being a lot of civil unrest due to racial intolerance.

During some of my formative years, I can recall picketing some of the downtown eating establishments in Winston-Salem, N.C. One in particular that we spent a lot of time marching in front of was the K&W Cafeteria. It had a prime location in the heart of the business district.

However, for Black people it didn’t matter how prime the location was because we couldn’t eat there.

Over time and with legislation, voting was secured for people who look like me. I cannot imagine not being able to vote.

Voting is such a basic human right that it seems almost ludicrous to discuss it. Yet here we are today still talking about the right to vote.

The significance of August 1965 was that was the month and the year that The Voting Rights Act was passed. August 5 was the exact date. Lyndon B. Johnson was the president of the United States who signed this historic piece of legislation.

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Since that time it has been amended and extended. The Voting Rights Act, specifically Section 5, served as a way of protecting our right to vote if we lived in any of the sixteen states with a history of voting racial discrimination.

Exercise your right to vote. It is a privilege to do so. All you have to do is look at other countries that have problems in this area.

Negative forces may rise up but remember no weapon formed against you will prosper. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.” Let us all be vigilant so that voting becomes an exercise that we celebrate in our democracy. After all, this is the home of the brave and the land of the free.

And in this land of the free, voting becomes both a right and a privilege.

So don’t wake up on November 5 not having voted. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

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