Wednesday, July 1, 2015

[SCOPE-SCLC] Commemorate the Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act was signed on August 6, 1965.  Among other things, it suspended the "tests or devices" used to keep blacks from voting in most Southern states.
While it has been watered down by the Supreme Court, it is still one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress.
SCLC expected the VRA to pass in June.  Because it didn't become law until August 6, most of us brought people to be registered under both the old rules and the new.  We saw how important the VRA was in making it possible for blacks to register to vote.

The first week in August is a good time to commemorate the passage of the  VRA and to talk about why it needs to be strengthened.  We have stories to tell and we should tell them.   The House will not be in session that week.  Members of the House should be in their home districts.  We can encourage them to hold press events around the VRA and invite 1965 civil rights activists to participate.

I pitched that idea to Cong. Keith Ellison's office two months ago and got a very positive response.  I knew we had a lot of SCOPErs in Minneapolis so there had to be at least one living in his district.  After hearing back from his Chief of Staff, we put his District director in touch with one of his constituents (Dan Conrad) to set something up. 

We should do that with other Members of Congress.   It can only be done effectively with MCs who have constituents who were 1965 civil rights activists with stories to tell.  Can you tell me who you are?  I don't know where you all live so it's hard to match you up with Members of Congress unless you tell me who your MC is.  If you aren't sure, go to  and fill in the blanks where it says Find Your Representative.

Not everyone's Representative will be receptive to doing something around the VRA.  The ones most likely to do so are members of the Progressive Caucus or the Black Caucus.  Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva are PC co-chairs.  G. K Butterfield is the current chair of the Black Caucus.
You can find out if your MC is one of the 69 Members of the Progressive Caucus at  or one of the 46 members of Black Caucus at  
These lists are by by state.  ( also lists caucus members, but not by state) 
Most of these MCs are members of both caucuses.
If you want to propose a VRA event yourself, this is the week to do so.  The House is not in session this week. You can go to your CD office and speak to the Member, or the District director.  If you want me to ask your MC's office to do something with you, I need to know the name of your Representative.

The Senate will be in session the first week in August, so its members are unlikely prospects for events at home.  Bernie Sanders is the only Senator who is a member of the Progressive Caucus.  He's busy running for President.  Cory Booker is the only Senator who is a member of the Black Caucus.  He's busy being Cory Booker.

There should be something happening in DC, though I haven't found out what.  If you live in the DC area and want to do something around the VRA, let me know and I'll see what I can find.
Let's not let the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act pass without doing something both to commemorate it and to highlight the need to strengthen it.

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