He reminded his audience of the struggles of Election 2012 when some states reduced the number of early voting days; polling place Photo ID laws proliferated; and the Sunday Souls to the Polls drive to help encourage church-going African-Americans to vote after services was restricted in some states (litigation in Ohio saved this event at the last minute .).
" Join us in fighting James Crow II, Esquire ," Sharpton quipped, referring to the more subtle forms of insidious racism echoing more blatant forms that were once a staple of elections in the South. "We'll beat you just as our forbears did. The power of the people will not be denied !," he averred.
MLK III, who had joined Sharpton on the small platform, called this morning's hearing " a serious time in the history of our nation ." [ League of Women Voters president Elizabeth McNamara described it as " the most important case to reach the Supreme Court in decades "]. We must find renewed strength in this the important anniversary of the March on Washington , even as April will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of his father's death in Memphis.
" I lost a father but the nation gained a movement ," he said.
If the right people were in Congress, we wouldn't be having this rally, King continued. Even if the Court says Section 5 will stand, we still have work [emphasis mine -- MNS]. Racism invalidates the process [of democracy].
King advised the hundred standing before him to " march more, tweet more ," use Facebook, and even reach out to the " business folk " on LinkedIn.
Inclusion is important !, he concluded.
Cruelly ironic it was , that on this same day, February 27, a statue of Rosa Parks was being unveiled in the U.S. Capitol's Hall of Statuary .
Memorable words were spoken by so many of the huge roster of speakers, each given just a few minutes over a three-hour time span.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has transformed the United States from exclusive to inclusive, said Elizabeth McNamara. The problems exposed by the 2012 election should reinforce the need for Section 5.
Rep. Hank Thompson (D-GA) took the segregation-integration process farther back than the nineteenth century to the 1607 settlement of Jamestown; black indentured servants who worked on the ship that brought the settlers here were subsequently subjugated to slavery -- becoming counted as three-fifths of a person by the time the Constitution was ratified in 1789.
SCLC president Charles Steele said that if we allow Section 5 to be eliminated from the VRA, " the world will fail ." He spoke of his travels around the world; of how former USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev assumed that Obama's consecutive victories indicated that racism was no longer a problem here. Said Steele, " Hell no, we've just begun ."
Reinforcing words were spoken by Melanie Campbell, CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: " Injustice anywhere is a threat to those everywhere ."
"It's everyone's issue !" echoed Kendra Brown, national chair of the National Black Law Students' Association.
Steele called Obama " the downpayment on a dream "; we still have to march; "I'm ready to go to jail !"