By Deborah Bailey
Civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Martin L. King III joined Democratic state legislators from Texas pressuring Congress to pass voting rights legislation last week.
While meeting with Congressional leaders, Sharpton and King spent the afternoon with several of the African American Texas Lawmakers heading into their fourth week of a walk out from the Texas State Legislature.
“We could not come to Washington without showing support and solidarity with people on the front lines that brought this issue that Dr. King stood for to national attention,” Sharpton said as he stood in the shadow of the national Martin L. King Memorial with the Texas lawmakers.
They have sacrificed for us. This is not a pleasure trip,” Sharpton added.
“The disgrace that Texas and Georgia and Florida and other states are doing must be resisted,” Sharpton said in response to the more than 20 states that have enacted or are seeking to implement restrictive voting rights legislation.
Ron Reynolds, Vice Chair of the Texas Black Caucus, spoke on behalf of his colleagues who joined Sharpton and King on the hot afternoon in front of the King Memorial.
“We need HR-I, the For the People Act and HR-4 – the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act passed now, because in the State of Texas and states all over this country led by Republican Governors, they are trying to pass laws that will disenfranchise Black and Brown communities,” Reynolds said.
“Make no mistake about it, they know what they’re doing,” Reynolds implored.
“It is sad that we (Americans) go around the world talking about Democracy, and yet suppress democracy here at home. Something is very wrong with Democracy at this moment,” said Martin L. King, III, son of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and president of the Drum Major Institute.
King III urged all Americans to push their Congressional leaders to pass federal voting rights legislation.
“We are making a moral appeal about this issue,” he said. “A voteless people is a powerless people,” King continued, quoting one of his father’s speeches.
King announced the 58th Anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28, would be spent advocating for Voting Rights regardless of whether or not legislation passes Congress before the summer session ends.
Events will be held in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix and Miami, to emphasize the urgency of voting rights at both the national and state levels.
Sharpton reported the delegation had frank conversations with Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic West Virginia lawmaker who stands at the center of the debate for passage of voting rights legislation this summer.
“We had a very candid conversation,” said Sharpton. Sharpton reported that Manchin was not in support of HR1 – the For the People Act, but supported HR-4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act. Manchin, still remains opposed to abolishing the long held Congressional Filibuster but Sharpton reported he is willing to press for a “work around” to get the Lewis Voting Rights Amendment passed.
Sharpton, King and the Texas State lawmakers met with several other key lawmakers including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CAL) and House Majority Whip, James Clyburn (D-SC).
When asked by the AFRO how long the Texas legislators were willing to take a stand and be away from home, Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett replied, “As long as it takes. We literally have lit a fire in this country to the extent that voting rights now is the No. 1 priority for so many people,” she said.