soulstopolls

A Facebook inspiration for all of us.

There is a Facebook photo post that I can’t shake. The first time I saw it, I stared at it for several minutes. It conjured up so much emotion. For a bundle of reasons, I had to put the heart-wrenching photo on my Facebook page.

Some of my friends told me personally that it almost brought them to tears. It is not the first time I have seen such a photo. But, for some reason, this one moved me.

The photo is of a group of older Louisiana residents heading to early vote in Baton Rouge. They have on T-shirts that read “Louisiana Souls to the Polls.” (More on that slogan later.) That they were voting early spoke volumes all by itself.

But that is not what ripped into my heart. What rattled my emotions was that at the head of the line — the focus of the photograph — was an elderly African American man bent over and moving with the assistance of a walker.

Behind him were more older people, at least one or two using walkers to assist them to do what is an American right, voting.

The photo is flat out inspirational. If you’re too busy or don’t see a need to vote, this is the photo that will give you a kick in the pants. Well, some folk.

The photograph sparked several comments. “Praise the Lord. What a Blessing to see the older generation showing the younger generation what it means to be able to vote.”

And, my favorite: “I just think what this represents should make all those ‘super woke’ folks that don’t think voting is worth their time think a little.”

But then more photos started coming college campuses, including Southern University, taking students to the polls to early vote. At time of this writing, I saw Capitol High School in Baton Rouge taking first-time voters to the polls. Every high school ought to be doing this. That’s a great civics lesson if you ask me.

Now, concerning the “Souls to the Polls” slogan T-shirts. Three years ago, I wrote a column inspired by an effort in North Carolina that used the slogan “Souls to the Polls” to identify early voting on two Sundays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. A lot of African American churches used the two Sundays to get their members to the polls.

But it was not limited to the African-American community. In some places, white voters outnumbered African Americans.

Unfortunately, some North Carolina conservatives didn’t like the effort because it appeared to stimulate black voter participation. They tried to eliminate one of the Sundays without any proof that it was causing problems. Their effort failed.

In my column I suggested that “Souls to the Polls” would be great in Louisiana. No one had pushed the idea, but the shirts mean something.

When writing that column, I asked my friend the Rev. Dale Flowers about the idea. He liked it. He and a number of African-Americans churches and organizations have adopted the “Souls to the Polls” theme.

His churches, New Sunlight and Redwood Baptist, along with Elm Grove, New Canaan, Donaldson Chapel, and Shiloh Baptist churches formed a group called Prophetic Voices with the “Souls to the Polls” theme. They partnered with the NAACP, Power Coalition and Tender Kare Transportation to get folks to early vote.

“This is our third (Souls to the Polls) effort,” he said, adding that they took nearly 300 older people in buses to the State Archives building this week in buses and vans. Some younger people went in personal cars.

“We believe that the church must be involved, at the forefront of encouraging our community to exercise their hard-fought right to vote because in America your vote is your voice," Flowers said.

All of this early voting must be doing something. According to the Louisiana Secretary of State more people voted on the first day of early voting, Nov. 2, than at any time in history. That’s a good thing for Louisiana.

Now comes the second push. For those who have not voted, you can early vote today and on Election Day Nov. 16. Do it. Pick your favorite candidate or position and vote!

As the Secretary of State’s website says: “Voting is one of the most powerful rights that a citizen has, and voter participation is crucial for an effective, truly representative government.”

If you need inspiration, think about the old man with the walker.

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly column, at epratt1972@yahoo.com.

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