GRANITEVILLE — The Aiken County Chapter of the NAACP reaffirmed its commitment to fighting inequality and prejudice at its 94th anniversary celebration held at Valley Fair Baptist Church on Sunday.
It was indeed a celebration. The day was not meant for somber attitudes, nor was it meant for relaxation, said the Rev. Michelle Bush, mistress of ceremonies. It was meant to look back on and celebrate all the chapter and the national organization has accomplished over the years and to look forward to meeting goals that haven’t been reached yet, she said.
“We pause to celebrate today, for tomorrow we know there is still work to be done,” said Louisiana Wright-Sanders, chapter first vice president.
There is still work to be done on getting eligible residents registered to vote, and on educating those voters on how to get past all the political rhetoric bombarding them every time they turn on the TV, read a newspaper, or log on the Internet so they can think critically about the issues, Wright-Sanders said.
“In the election cycle upon us, there is one question to ask – and it’s not about guns, Socialists or Chick-fil-A – it’s, ‘What kind of country do you want to live in?’” said keynote speaker Kevin Myles, director of the NAACP Southeast region.
Voters today, in these “critical hours,” are faced with a paradox of choice, he said, because there are so many messages out there that it’s difficult for a person to choose just one. It has a debilitating effect, and prevents that person from fully engaging in the election process, he said.
The cacophony of messages is singing a lullaby, lulling voters to sleep when they must stay awake, he said.
Myles said the message must be so simple and so clear that it cannot be missed: “What kind of country do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a country where a multi-racial, multi-ethnic body can represent us all? Where they’re equally concerned with the rich, the poor, black, white, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight? Or do you want to limit democracy with lies and schemes?”
It’s easy to hear that, “We can’t go back,” he said, adding that the nation can’t go back when there exists the “greatest effort to rollback our voters’ right since the Reconstruction.”
South Carolina’s voter ID law, which passed last year but was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department, requires specific photo identification be shown in order to vote. The Justice Department found that South Carolina had failed to prove the measure would not disenfranchise minority voters.
South Carolina filed a lawsuit to reinstate the measure, and the federal trial started late last month. Closing arguments are expected on Sept. 24.
Voter ID would “institutionalize voter repression,” Myles said, and predicted the state would become a battleground state from a Civil Rights standpoint in engaging voters.
Wright-Sanders vowed that the Aiken County Chapter of the NAACP would continue its fight against voter suppression, as it has since its founding in 1918.
“Civil Rights is not black rights, not white rights, but what is right,” said the Rev. Paul Bush, master of ceremonies.
Staff photo by Haley Hughes NAACP Aiken County Chapter President Phillip Howell, second from right, speaks with Kevin Myles, director of the organization’s southeast region, at the chapter’s 94th anniversary celebration. Also pictured are Everett Chandler and Louisiana Wright-Sanders.×
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