Civil rights large says Juneteenth is a day to grind towards injustices in our communities
JACKSON, miss. (WLBT) – While some people may be spending Juniteenth under fireworks or just reminiscing, Wendell Paris Sr., 76, will be busy.
“I’m glad it was commissioned as a federal holiday, but we have to treat it as a working day,” said Paris. “It’s a holiday where we have to go out in our churches and correct some things that are happening now that we know are wrong.”
Paris, which has helped Fannie Lou Hamer fight voter suppression in the south, will speak at a rally to promote suffrage.
History repeated itself for Harris.
“For me this is a crucial moment because we have to draw attention again to the fact that our voices are being suppressed across the country,” he said.
Harris said 48 states, including Mississippi, are in the process of implementing over 300 laws that would deny minorities the right to vote, a right that civil rights activists said never had full.
“We have always had temporary voting status, and it was never the United States’ intention that we have full voting rights,” joked Harris. “Our rights in 1965” [Voting Rights Act] were temporarily, renewed in 1970, renewed 75, renewed in 1983, renewed again in 2003 … “
An example of this in Mississippi is Senate Act 2588. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi called it a voter suppression tool that would “force electoral officers to remove voters from the electoral roll for simply not voting.”
On Saturday, Wendell Paris Sr. will share the stage with Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Senator Angela Turner Ford, Arekia Bennett, Jaribu Hill, Fred Douglas Moore Clark Sr. and Danyelle Holmes.
Our leaders gather for an outreach campaign called Black Voters Matter. Starting in Jackson, Mississippi, the grassroots group embarks on what they call the Freedom Ride, a tour of nine cities across the south to help minorities understand the implications of their choice.
“Any bill to suppress votes, criminalize protests and weaken black power is a reminder of the enduring history of slavery in this country,” said Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of Black Voters Matter. “But we’re starting this Freedom Ride for Voting Rights on Juneteenth with local and national partners to show voters, communities and elected officials how far we’ve come and to remind them of what Black Power can do.”
In the 1960s, Harris marched and rallied and organized suffrage efforts that made change, and despite his age, he hopes to educate and influence more people this time around.
“MS. Hamer said, ‘You call it the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we call it the tree and the grave,'” Harris said. “The call to action is clear for all people of goodwill to join and ensure that they are actively committed to repelling this frontal assault on minority voting rights across the country so that we can create the form of government for all people. “
Wendell Paris, Sr. at a voting rights rally in the 1960s(Photo by Jim Peppler, Alabama Department of Archives and History)
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