An opportunity wasted

A meeting was held April 30 at the Westwood Baptist Church in West Asheville, ostensibly to address the issue of voter disenfranchisement and the new Voter ID laws being promulgated by the tea party and Republicans. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: The disenfranchised population of Buncombe County, those most likely to be affected by this new version of the poll tax, were for some reason strikingly absent from the audience and the podium. Just as striking was the fact that there were more white people in attendance than African-Americans.

When the Q-and-A began, I raised the issue and and, since one of the sponsors was the organization that held the very well-attended MLK Breakfast recently, I questioned why no local politicians — with the exception of Brownie Newman, Holly Jones and former mayor Leni Sitnick — thought this issue was of enough importance to attend. Why was my African-American mayor — who would be one of those targeted by the new law — not present, or the clergy from the African-American churches, save one?

The most salient observation was simply that there was no upside to attending this grass-roots forum, no major public exposure, no high-profile attendees or speechifying, plaques or platitudes being handed out. The most disappointing aspect was, as one of the speakers pointed out, the African-American church has traditionally been at the forefront of all the major social changes affecting its community, extolling and informing about the issues affecting its members.

One City Council seat in the last election was decided by 35 votes and the 2008 presidential by 14,000 (in North Carolina). So, this is not a minor issue; a challenge has been issued and a war is being waged against women and minorities of every stripe, so now is not the time for political correctness or political timidity or for the black church in particular to be in the background on this defining issue.

Voter awareness and activism should be the "Sermon on the Mount" every Sunday. Pass the collection plate, and don't forget to vote.

— Jesse Junior


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