Tears of Persistence
Yesterday, I experienced something unique. It was so overwhelming that I couldn’t bring myself to even write about it until this very moment sitting here at my apartment at 4:00 am. Ironically, I started writing this article at exactly 4:25 am (my actual birthday), so maybe this article will be one of these divinely aligned and inspiring texts.
As a resident of Texas, I am allowed the opportunity to vote early. So, yesterday morning on our second day of voting, I woke up early and headed to the polls. Now here is some full disclosure; I was under the impression that my polling place currently allowed 24hr voting when it wasn’t going to happen until the 29th, but I digress. I went to the polls early. It was still dark outside, and there was a line of about 45 of us all standing in the dark. There were people of all colors and creeds waiting, with some sense of urgency and even some joy as we stood in line together waiting to exercise our constitutional duty. While standing in line, I recalled many of my experiences as a former political staffer. I vividly remembered how difficult it was to engage voters and encourage people to engage in the election process fully. For whatever reason, people just chose not to participate in the electoral process, and it was truly disheartening. But today was different. The day before was different, and I’m sure the days to follow will be different than we have ever seen before.
Yes, there was some subtle undertone of whom we all were supporting politically. Still, our camaraderie was even more potent during this electoral process so early in the morning as I stood in that line and witnessed what was going on. An emotional sense of pride came over me. Now, ironically before the day I vote, a popular news anchor was crying at the polls because of the voter turnout. At that moment, I did not understand how or why he felt that way at that moment. But when I had my moment the following day, I understood completely.
Traditionally, in most elections, only 30% of the eligible voting population votes. Regardless of the election’s level or location, the percentage tends to hover around 30% or less. Whether we like it or not, these are the statistics, and quite frankly, given the freedoms that we have in this country, it is quite sad that our electoral participation doesn’t significantly exceed this. There is honestly no excuse. As I stood in that line beaming with personal pride, I thought about my family. While I reside in Texas, I’m a proud Mississippi boy. Standing there in that line, I could hear the voices of my grandmother reminding me of my purpose and duty to myself and my community. See, over 55 years ago, my family members were marching for the right to vote in Natchez, Mississippi, and local authorities arrested them. Last year in 2019, my grandmother received an honor for being the oldest living survivor of what is now known as The Parchman Ordeal.
While I stood in that line, flashbacks of my last moments with her, especially the emotion filling the room as we honored her and other men and women who sacrificed so much for us to be able to vote. At the age of 90, my grandmother was finally getting honored for her quiet sacrifice. She told us months before that she wanted to see the monument while it was being built just in case she would not be here for the unveiling. My grandmother wasn’t some grand leader. She didn’t lead rallies or parades. She was just another soldier, another unsung hero, that knew the importance and impact of her actions.
As I stood in line, I could feel her strength and the strength of so many people in my family that made it possible for me to be here at this moment. On the day of the memorial unveiling, I knew that my grandmother was holding on for that moment. That was the last time that I saw her alive. She would transition the following week.
Standing in that line at the poll, I froze for a moment. I was tired. I was hungry. I was slightly agitated, but none of that mattered. It was like tunnel vision. All I could see was my grandmother with her smile, saying, come on, let’s go, we’ve got to go vote. And hearing those phrases, I could visualize my family being spat on, sprayed with water hoses, threatened, and being targeted with numerous other evil actions, but they persisted. Because they persisted, so will I.
I will never forget. Despite every frustration or obstacle that may come from voting or the political climate, I will always vote in honor of my family, who persisted consistently. That is my inheritance. That is all our inheritance. Let’s not squander it. Let’s spend it wisely together. Let’s go vote. We must always persist.