Fighting Tears as the Election Approaches

By Abayea Pelt 11-03-2008

I have been fighting tears for the past few days. And as Tuesday draws closer it becomes harder and harder to keep those tears at bay. As I hear of news reports of record early voter turnout in places like North Carolina, I am moved in my spirit, imagining that my foremothers and fathers are rejoicing in this.

You see, as a black woman, I hold the right to vote very close to my heart. When I turned 18, one of the first things I did was register to vote. From an early age I was taught about the struggle for black people to exercise the right to vote. The hymns and spiritual songs of that struggle were my lullabies. I cannot remember a time when I did not know about the work of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Medger Evers, and others who risked their lives so that I could cast a ballot like any other American citizen. My parents and teachers made it clear that the sacrifice of these women and men was for me. Just a few decades ago, disenfranchisement for blacks was one part of a web of oppression that ran the gamut between limited access to education to open, overt terrorism in our communities. I live in the knowledge that my path to the voting booth is paved in blood, sweat, and tears.

A few days ago, I asked my son if he was coming with me to vote. He responded, "Of course. Don't we always vote together?" Because he is 14 years old, this is the last election where we will enter the booth together. By the next presidential election, he will be old enough to cast his own ballot. I hope that I have instilled the history of that right in him. I hope that he realizes that having to choose between two imperfect candidates is better that having your right to choose withheld from you. And I hope that he will always know that we cannot vote in the kingdom of God, but we can advocate for the care and protection of the "least of these" our brethren, in part, by exercising our right to vote.

Abayea Pelt is the office manager and receptionist for Sojourners.

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