The Urban League of Middle Tennessee hosted its 47th annual Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon on February 3 at the Hilton Downtown Nashville. This year’s theme was ‘We Are the Americans We’ve Been Waiting For: Act and Vote to Empower.’
The luncheon program commemorated the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The theme was based on the speech given by President Lyndon B. Johnson as he referenced the significance of the Voting Rights Act much like what was seen in the recent movie Selma.
The keynote speaker was Jeff Johnson. Johnson, award-winning journalist, communications specialist, and thought leader provided commentary and facilitated the discussion that was centered on the importance in protecting minority voters.
Joining in this discussion were national and civic leaders including Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president for policy and executive director of the National Urban League Washington Bureau; Marcia Johnson-Blanco, director of the Voting Rights Project with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Tennessee state Rep. Brenda Gilmore; and Justin Jones, Fisk University sophomore and leader of the Positive Peace Power Network.
They talked about all of the barriers and restrictions put in place to try to hinder minorities from voting. Back then it was intimidation and scare tactics. Today we are seeing people not being able to vote unless they have a government issued state picture ID—something many minorities don’t have.
History will continue to repeat itself unless we make a change. We can be the change. Just like the quote on the theme says: ‘We are the Americans we’ve been waiting for.’
It’s important for those of us able to vote to actually do it, and encourage other to do so as well. We also need to be informed about our decision so we can put the right people in power who have our best interests at heart.
After the discussion, the panelists and keynote speaker left the audience with some encouraging words pertaining to voting.
By far the most important one was given to young adults and college students by Justin Bautista Jones: “If your vote didn’t matter then the government wouldn’t make it so hard for you to vote.”
Proceeds from The Equal Opportunity Day activities benefit education and workforce development programs and additional activities provided through ULMT. Established in 1968 by a group of local business leaders, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee has impacted up to 5,000 youth and adults annually.