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Whether Marching Or Voting, Do Your Part

By Barney Blakeney

Just when I thought the vehement protests about police abuse of authority and use of force had slowed, them dang kids ramped it up again over the removal of the monument to John C. Calhoun that overlooks Marion Square and Calhoun Street in Charleston. They make me so proud! They ain’t letting up! Now us old fogies need to do our part and go out and vote.

The kids have the energy, stamina and enthusiasm to do the marching, but older Americans represent the majority of voters. Of course old folks should be out there marching and protesting too, just as young folks should be voting. But that ain’t the reality. I got my voter registration card when I turned 18 from the county voter registration office then located on “The Green’ at Marion Square. But I really didn’t start voting until I came home from college. I wasn’t hip to absentee voting.

I think the kids’ will spur some change. They started off focused on police murders, but the protests quickly have evolved to include other issues. They are getting the beat down as they protest, maybe that’s caused them to focus on all the other abuses fomented by white male dominated paramilitary law enforcement in the United States. Reform needs to happen at hiring and going on to training and what’s expected of officers. Former Charleston police Chief Reuben Greenberg used to tell me he was a cop, not a social worker.

It saddens me that the forces of distraction are gaining so much ground redirecting the focus from positive progressive change to the semantics of discussion. Replace the word ‘defund’ with the word’ reform’ and all the silly conversation goes away. As my partner Big Dog would say, it’s the ‘old throw ‘em off the trail’ trick.

Dog, Septima Clark’s grandson, was in town from Charlotte, N.C.  June 21 for the Emanuel Nine Unity March. He stays engaged in civil rights activities.  As a mother of the modern Civil Rights Movement, Mama Seppy used to take him and his siblings to such events. He still goes! And he now takes his kids, especially Michelle, to them! About 250 people heard speakers at the church. Fewer marched from the Maritime Center in Concord Street to the church.

North Charleston civil rights advocate Samuella Holmes and son Kevin Williams, United Black Men of Charleston County president, were there. Sam Holmes is an ever-present fixture in the activities that promote equality and justice in our community. I first met her – I’d heard about her activism for years, but never met her – at the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance meetings. She’s ALWAYS supportive of the stuff that moves our community forward. She’s never sought the titles so many Black ‘leaders’ seem to crave. Fantastic woman!

Sam Holmes reminds me of Ella Baker who had an enormous influence on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and without whose input several African-American organizations at the time might not have been so successful. Ella Josephine Baker was a largely behind-the-scenes organizer. She mentored many emerging activists such as Diane NashStokely CarmichaelRosa Parks, and Bob Moses whom she first mentored as leaders in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Baker has been called one of the most important American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement.

It was hot at the June 21 march and I met Sam as she sought a seat out of the sun.  I had to do the same thing. Man I can’t do all that walking and marching no more. I get figgity in church when we have to stand for one of them long-praying elders who got to call everybody in the church name. Don’t get me wrong, ain’t no such thing as too long praying, but I’m at the age where I’ma have to keep my seat.

In that vein – and because of the COVID – for the recent primary elections I chose to do the mail-in voting thing. It’s an option some of us older voters unable to stand in long lines might want to consider. And it’s not that hard.

Charleston County Board of Elections and Registration Executive Director Joseph L. Debney said voters can start requesting their mail in ballots now for the November Presidential Election. Here is the process: Voters can contact our office in the following ways to request an absentee ballot application: Phone: 843-744-8683; Email: [email protected]; or via the Web: (they can chat with us – Live Chat feature). Once the voter has requested their application, we will send it to them in the mail. Next, all they have to do is sign and date the application and return it to our office. Once the ballots are ready (ballots will be ready in October), then we will start mailing them to voters. Voters must return the ballots to our office via USPS mail or by physically dropping it off at our location (4367 Headquarters Rd., North Charleston).

In the 2016 primary, 2,852 ballots were returned and 59,807 ballots were returned in the 2016 presidential election. This year, 12,679 primary election ballots were returned. Debney believes that the safest way to cast a ballot is through the mail. He expects that the trend for voters to use the absentee process will continue to rise. His office is committed to ensure that all voters can cast their ballot whether via absentee balloting or by voting at the polls on Election Day, Debney said.

Even dunderheads like me can’t mess up. I waited til the last minute to mail back my ballot which wouldn’t get through the mail in time and figured I had to go stand in line. But the drop box was there so all I had to do was drop my ballot in the box and go on my merry way. As I said, the young folks can protest and we can vote. Unlike the old days, at least here in Charleston us old folks won’t get a beat down going to the polls.

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