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On the 100th Anniversary of Fannie Lou Hamer’s Birth, Find Inspiration to Fight for Voting Rights
“You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”
—Fannie Lou Hamer
At a time when the right to vote is being threatened, we look for inspiration in the lives of those who fought most valiantly to extend and protect that right. This fall we recognize the 100th anniversary of one of our greatest champions, Fannie Lou Hamer.
Born to a family of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, she was forced at the age of 13 from her one-room schoolhouse into the cotton fields. She was forced off the plantation where she worked when the owner found out she had tied to register to vote. She was blocked from actually registering, however, by Mississippi’s notorious racially-discriminatory literacy test. At that time, Black voters not only had to prove they could read, but also had to compose an essay analyzing a portion of the U.S. Constitution—to the satisfaction of a white registrar. White applicants were exempt from such requirements under so-called “grandfather clauses.”
Her willingness to challenge the registrar and demand she be alone to fill out an application attracted the attention of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which hired her as a field organizer.
The beating she suffered in prison in 1963 as a result of her activism left her with permanent injuries to her kidneys, eyes and legs.
While her work with SNCC raised her public profile, it was as a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that she gained national celebrity. The party selected 64 delegates to send to the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and Hamer was elected vice-chair of the delegation. Hamer’s powerfully moving testimony to the credentials committee was broadcast on national television, drawing attention to the humiliations and violence visited upon Black Americans in the South who tried to vote.
The work of Hamer and others led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It placed restrictions states with a history of discrimination—Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia and Hamer’s home state of Mississippi—and certain jurisdictions in other states, requiring the approval of the federal government for any election law changes. In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, ruling that “preclearance” no longer was necessary. States wasted no time in proving the Supreme Court wrong. Within two months, North Carolina passed racially-discriminatory voting restrictions that later were struck down in federal court. Overall, 23 states have passed restrictive voting laws.
Meanwhile, the White House has established a sham Commission to perpetuate the myth of widespread voter fraud. The commission is a weapon of mass deception, a Trojan horse to usher in even greater voting restrictions on people of color, the poor, senior citizens and students.
Despite her worsening health, complicated by a lifetime spent in poverty and the beating she suffered in prison, she spent her life battling racism and poverty. It would be a disgrace to her memory if we did not make every effort to defeat the effort to restrict voting rights.
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Hoyer Joins “The Bruce DePuyt Podcast” to Discuss Open Enrollment, Republicans’ Tax Bill, and Puerto Rico
Washington, D.C.—Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) on “The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.” Congressman Hoyer joined Bruce to discuss a wide range of topics, including the current open enrollment period, the harmful effects of Republicans’ tax bill on Maryland families, and his recent trip to Puerto Rico. To listen to the podcast visit https://soundcloud.com/user-467553809/episode-5-congressman-steny-hoyer-d-md, or see below for excerpts from the interview:
On Republican Sabotage of the Affordable Care Act and Open Enrollment
“I think it’s very unfortunate that this Administration, and frankly Republicans in Congress, have done everything they can to undermine the confidence of insurance companies in the stability of the market, which has led to much higher premiums because they’ve had to price their product thinking the worst will happen.”
On the 2018 Open Enrollment Period
“I would urge everybody who has a policy on the Exchange, or wants to look at a policy on the Exchange, it has been shortened 45 days, it’s been cut in half. But from November 1 to December 15 is the open enrollment period. I would urge everybody who needs insurance, wants insurance, or has insurance to go on HealthCare.gov and see what their options are. Because circumstances have changed, and prices may have changed, and coverage may have changed.”
On the Republican Tax Bill
“I think they are having real trouble. And they’re handling this in a fashion like they handled the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which they failed. And I think they are going to fail in this effort.”
“There are no hearings—no citizens are going to be given the opportunity to come in and testify about this bill, no suggestions will be heard … They are rushing to judgment. One rushes to judgment when he doesn’t want people to find out what he is doing … I think this bill is going to create about $1.5–$2.5 trillion in additional debt from a party that says they want to be the fiscally responsible party. And most of that money is going to go to the wealthiest people in America … This is a bill that is not going to help working people in America, but is going to be a bonanza for people at the upper end of the scale.”
On Recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Federal Government’s Response
“We are not going to abandon those Americans who live in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. They have been devastated by one of the worst storms in history. I was down there last weekend with the Majority Leader—Mr. [Kevin] McCarthy—and we saw extraordinary devastation. People who were unable to get water, food, medical—it is now a month after Maria and six weeks after Irma. Irma and Maria both hit the Virgin Islands head on. Now Irma skirted Puerto Rico, but Maria hit head on. And as we want to make sure that the citizens are made whole in Houston, and in Florida, we need to do the same for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
“I talked to Governor [Ricardo] Rosselló and he didn’t think it was a 10 either, and it wasn’t a 10. That’s not to say there aren’t some people doing some very hard work with FEMA, in FEMA, and in our armed forces. There are, there are some people doing some very good work.”
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