On Sunday the Apollo Theater in Harlem and WNYC partnered for a second year to present WNYC’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration with “Hear Our Voices, Count Our Votes: MLK’s March Continues.” Hear portions of it in the video clip above.
WNYC’s Peabody Award-winning host Brian Lehrer and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry convened a discussion that looks at how—50 years after the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act—communities across America continue to grapple with voter disenfranchisement, suppression, strained police-community relations, discrimination and other challenges to full equality.
“Here we stand just 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act and we witness the rise of another generation of a new movement deeply connected to this previous movement,” said Harris-Perry, hailing it as “a movement of determined creative maladjustment that refuses to accommodate injustice.” This new movement “will not make peace with state violence against bodies that are deemed worthless” and is not looking to mimic Dr. Martin Luther King’s movement, but “responds to his call,” she added.
Longtime Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY 13th District ), brought his trademark bluntness to his onstage discussion with Brian Lehrer about the current move to limit voting rights. “The same people that were cursing and spitting on us during that 54-mile march have now taken off their sheets, have taken off their Democratic Dixie layer thing, converted themselves to Republican,” said Rangel. He continued, “If you really want to find out where the struggle was for the right to vote, geographically look and see which states now are trying to take away the right to vote.”
Rangel’s remarks came after a top Republican leader in the House of Representatives said members have no intention of working to restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was gutted by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.
Global Grind’s editor-in-chief, Michael Skolnik talked about how the war on drugs and mandatory minimums have negatively impacted communities of color during his chat onstage with writer and comedian Baratunde Thurston. Global Grind is owned by Interactive One, which also owns NewsOne.
Skolnik frankly stated, “The War on Drugs was a war against Black and Brown America and it failed miserably.” He added, “White people have to stand up and say these things because it has destroyed the fabric of Black and Brown communities.” He also commended President Barack Obama and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder for their commitment to criminal justice reform.
Shani Small, from the New York borough of Queens, was among those attending “Hear Our Voices, Count Our Votes: MLK’s March Continues.” She told NewsOne that in the current struggle it’s important to focus on what strategies can be developed to combat police brutality and “move ourselves in a different direction as a movement.”
Michael G. Cox, a 29-year-old Brooklynite, said, “The fact that we’re still trying to fight for equal rights at the ballot is unfortunate.” Cox believes the people who are attempting to suppress the minority vote are “eating away” and “eroding the American fabric.” Yet, he remains optimistic because there are people from “all stripes, all colors, all ages that are fighting to stitch that fabric back together.”
Watch portions of the “Hear Our Voices, Count Our Votes: MLK’s March Continues” celebration at the legendary Apollo Theater in the video clip above.