Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family is demanding that the Senate pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would protect against voter discrimination and suppression.
Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, stated that until Congress passes this legislation, there will be “no celebration” in honor of MLK Day, The Associated Press reported.
Arndrea Waters King, the wife of MLK III and the president of the Drum Major Institute told Essence that this country has seen “a different attack on our democracy…during the election of 2020, people voted in numbers unlike we’ve ever seen before. We mobilized, we voted, we came out and consequently, since that time, there have been [numerous] bills proposed to make it harder to vote.”
In December, King launched a campaign titled “Deliver For Voting Rights” and partnered with 150 other organizations and demanded that both President Joe Biden and Congress pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
“We’ve seen what happens when the President and Congress put their full weight and power behind an issue. We saw that with the passage of the infrastructure bill, and what we’re saying is that the President stood for bridges. Now it’s time to stand for our voting rights,” King stated.
On Saturday, King, activists, and faith leaders crossed a bridge in Phoenix, Arizona to symbolize freedom and the challenges Black Americans faced in order to gain access to voting rights.
Stephanie Young, the Executive Director of When We All Vote told Essence that if Rev. King were still alive, he would be “surprised that we are circling right back to the fight that he and many others led. We are right back at square one when it comes to suppressing voters, especially in certain states that the Voting Rights Act protected. States like my home state of Georgia and Alabama.”
She continued, “But we know from his teaching we cannot ever give up on the fight for voting rights and ensuring we’re moving the ball forward and we’re expanding access and continuing to protect voters.”
The fight for justice is slated to continue today in Washington D.C. where King and hundreds of others will make their voices heard.
“[Today] we will be crossing the Frederick Douglass Bridge again along with a lot of our national partners, elected officials, activists, and everyday people. We’re crossing the Frederick Douglass Bridge to all come together and stand and demand passage of federal voting rights protection legislation,” said King.
She told Essence that while we have seen progress in some areas, we are moving backwards as it pertains to voting rights in this country.
“Our daughter, Yolanda Renee, was born in 2008. She’s the only granddaughter and the only grandchild of Martin Luther King Jr. And Coretta Scott King. In 2013, the federal Voting Rights Act, which was one of the cornerstones of her grandfather’s legislation, was dismantled,” King stated.
She continued, “In her 13 short years, she and her peers are standing right now at this moment with fewer voting rights than the day that they were born. I can’t imagine what Martin Luther King Jr. And Coretta Scott King would think about that.”
Taifa Smith Butler, President of Demos, a think tank headquartered in New York City, told Essence that she is hopeful that we will one day see change.
“Given what our ancestors fought for and died for, given what Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights leaders fought for, even I’m sitting here in the state of Georgia remembering John Lewis’s sacrifice is that we cannot lose hope and we can’t give up. And while we may have taken a few steps back, there are glimmers of hope in this country where we can continue to fight and see advancements and access to our democracy,” she said.