MIAMI — When he encounters people who doubt the importance of a single vote, David Bright relies on the past and the future to turn them around.
He reminds potential voters that African Americans might still be enslaved today had their ancestors believed that “the fix was in” and their efforts to abolish slavery were not worthwhile.
“We’re not doing this for now,’’ he said. “We’re doing this for 20 years from now. If we had people on plantations who said, ‘They will never let us be free,’ blacks might not be enjoying the liberties they enjoy today.’’
Bright is among a small but dedicated group within the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP that is working to register people to vote.
In the ten weeks since the group formed, it has already registered more than 1,800 voters, and aims to reach 10,000 by the Oct. 6 cutoff. Voters wishing to cast a ballot in the presidential election must be registered by that date.
The group met recently to provide progress reports, and was honored for its efforts with a celebratory dinner at New Birth Enterprises in Miami.
The Miami-Dade NAACP is seeking not only to prepare voters for the Nov. 4 presidential election, but has also focused its efforts on some local elections that warrant attention.
The fate of The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, created by a voter-approved referendum to fund children’s programs, will be determined this summer.
The organization last month announced that it awarded $45 million in grants to agencies and municipalities to help children. Miami-Dade voters approved the funding source in a September 2002 referendum.
The group’s revenues are based on a 0.4223 mill property tax. The owner of a home assessed at the median-taxable-value, minus the Homestead exemption, pays $61 a year, or just
over a dollar a week, according to the trust’s website, www.thechildrenstrust.org.
A “sunset provision’’ requires that the initiative be returned for voter approval on Aug. 26. If approved, “The Children's Trust” will be created permanently.
Voters will also select judges for the county benches on Aug. 26.
Miami-Dade NAACP President Victor Curry said this year’s effort is especially important because of the presidential election. Although the group’s non-partisan status was clearly stated, Curry’s preference for the Democratic contenders is unmistakable.
The popular pastor of the New Birth Baptist mega-church was candid in his assertion that the election of the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, is tantamount to a third term for George W. Bush.
“I don’t even think that the country could take that,” he warned.
One hurdle Curry sees in this year’s registration effort is the residual disenfranchisement many people are still experiencing from the 2000 presidential election.
“2000 really wounded us. Psychologically, a lot of people just stepped out of the political arena,” he said, adding, “Prayerfully, this time they’ll count our votes.”
Conrad Dobson, Philicia Lloyd, and Cheryl Ford are a part of the NAACP’s political action committee. The group currently registers voters throughout Miami Gardens and Liberty City.
Their plans for the near future include setting up shop and registering voters at a variety of events throughout the Miami-Dade area: at a Haitian Heritage cultural event on May 17, Goombay and Juneteenth events during the month of June, and Zo’s Summer Groove in July.
In order to reach their goal, the three need help. They hope to recruit 100 new volunteers who would each register just five new voters weekly; essentially signing up at least 500 voters each week between now and the October deadline.
Ronda Vangates leads a busy life but still finds time to volunteer with the NAACP. An attorney with the Miami-Dade school system, Vangates leads an active family and church life. The mother of a college coed sees her work with the NAACP as a responsibility.
“We have an obligation to give back,” she simply stated.
Curry summed up the importance of black people re-engaging in the political process, saying, “We can’t afford four more years of what we’ve experienced in the last eight years…They really win, if we really quit.”
To register to vote or for more information on the upcoming elections, visit www.naacpmiamidade.org or call 305-685-8694.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Attorney Ronda Vangates makes time in her schedule to volunteer for the NAACP.