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When I look back at the sacrifice of so many people who were fighting for the right to vote, I know I owe them to vote for my election day.
Every Election Day, since my son was 7 years old, I took him with me to vote.
And every year, I gave him "the speech".
"Son, your ancestors fought, blew and died, so that you have the right to vote. Do not let their sufferings be in vain. "
Every year, it bothers me. I can not give the talk without looking back without thinking of the beatings, the bloodshed, the ticking of the tear gas. I can not give the speech without imagining what it must be like to struggle for so many years for a basic, fundamental right, to recognize as a person, to shout.
I can not look back without remembering the words of the leader of the removal of the frigate Douglas in his own 1865 speech to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society: "… if we know enough to hang, we know enough to vote. If Negros knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote … If he knows enough to pass a musket and fight for the flag, to fight for the government, he knows enough to vote. "
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I can not look back without knowing that even after the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, giving the African-Americans the right to vote, their voices were silenced by racist voting taxes and literacy trials, and groups like Ku Klux Klan who terrified and took their lives if they dared to vote.
Scenes from the second course of civil rights in Selma, Al. March 25, 1965 (Photo by Charles Fentress Jr., Courier Journal.)
I can not look back without seeing the violent attacks of the "bloody Sunday" – when the African-Americans who walk for protection against the vote attacked with tear gas, hit them with sticks and wounded by the police with a horse during a peaceful journey started at Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.
Just five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed a law on voting rights, which banned literacy tests, poll tax and other discriminatory barriers that they used to keep African Americans voting.
We owe it to the next generation
Today, the descendants of those who voted for the vote face a thinner attack on their rights.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 collapsed parts of the 1965 voting right, leading to the closure of nearly a thousand election centers across the country – many of them in the African and American communities.
States clean up the laws and abolish the laws on the repression of voters that restrict timely voting, restrict forms of acceptable recognition, and – as does the shameful case in Kentucky – prevent people with criminal convictions from regaining their right to vote, their crimes.
We owe it to the next generation to continue the battle.
Just as we owe to those who came before us and cleared the path – a path watered with tears and covered with innocent blood.
We owe them to make sure that our voices are not silent – that the laws that restrict the basic right to vote and threaten our democracy are not allowed.
We owe them to the next generation to impress the importance of exercising the right to vote.
As a woman, I am also responsible for the many women and men who have fought for more than 70 years to give women the right to vote.
In view of the injustice, countless courageous women were taking the White House, running for miles, giving speeches and gathering reports. They remained strong and continued until the 19th amendment that was ratified in 1920.
It is because of these freedom fighters – who fought for civil rights and the rights of women – that I can stand upstairs, walk to the church where my neighborhood is and vote in the election day.
Shame on me if I do not honor their memory, their struggle, their sacrifice. Shame on me if I do not vote.
Shame on you, too.
My son reminded me last week that he would be 18 years old in another year and can be enrolled to vote. He had a look of anticipation on his face.
I have depicted him from now on taking his son or daughter to the polls, looking at him in the eye and giving his speech.
Veda Morgan is the director of the community affair at Courier-Journal of The (Louisville, Ky.), Where this column first appeared. You can follow it on Twitter: @cj_veda.
Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/nation-now/2018/11/05/elections-2018-they-fought-bled-and-died-so-we-could – vote-column / 1894625002 /