“We are here today to tell the community we will not let them take away our vote,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman before dozens of local citizens set out on a “Votercade” through Madison on Saturday, May 8, in conjunction with 150 simultaneous, nationwide demonstrations in honor of National John Lewis Voting Rights Day of Action.
With a parade of marchers and decorated cars and bikes, Grand Marshal Pastor W.J Reid led the procession through town, as participants donned signs advocating for an updated version of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Before demonstrators set off from the old Morgan County Middle School through the Historic Canaan District, local leaders spoke to the crowd about the importance of protecting voting rights in the face of a wave of election reform bills cropping up across the country, which voting rights advocates claim will make it harder for people to vote, especially among minority populations and economically disadvantaged communities.
MCHS Senior Alex Williams read a letter penned by the late John Lewis, Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights icon, in 2020 before he died.
“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble,” wrote Lewis. “Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it...Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
Grand Marshal W.J. Reid urged the crowd to pick up the torch Lewis left for them.
“I am sure John Lewis is resting in peace with all of us out here today,” said Reid. “We are here pushing the efforts he fought for, we press on.”
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman told the crowd that the country has come a long way but still has an uphill battle ahead.
“What John Lewis stood for, we must stand for now,” said Perriman. “We are in this for the long haul to fight for justice and peace for all of mankind.”
While these demonstrations will happen nationwide, Georgia voting rights groups feel particular urgency due to the new elections reform bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year – a piece of omnibus legislation viewed as a hindrance to voting rights among voting rights activists.
Also in attendance at Saturday’s votercade, included County Commissioner Donald Harris, Madison City Councilman Eric Joyce, Morgan County NAACP President Lonnie Brown, President of the Morgan County Ministers Union Robert Terrell, and Morgan County Board of Education member Cheryl Bland. Sponsored by the Morgan County NAACP, Indivisible 10, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and the Economic Justice Coalition.
“Voting rights advocates across the country are coming together across America to demand preservation and expansion of democracy, and ignite public support for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act,” said Jeanne Dufort, one of the votercade organizers.