By Katelynn White
NASHVILLE, TN — The Juneteenth celebration continued in Nashville on June 20 with an American voting rights organization coming to the First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. Black Voters Matter drove into town on the “Blackest Bus in
America” for their BVM Freedom Riders for Voting rally.
Organization members addressed the Black community about the importance of voting and how voting could increase power within the black community.
“Cast that ballot like a candle burning with ancestral flame; it’s the legacy they fought for, let them see what became of the women, of the country, of the children who got the chance to have a name,” said Alora Young, Youth Poet Laureate of the Southern United States and recipient of the Princeton Prize award.
Young jumpstarted the event with one of her inspirational poems, “To Have a Name,” which spoke about fighting for liberty. Her poem emphasized the meaning behind Juneteenth.
Speakers at the BVM rally talked about the historic protest that transpired 60 years ago while encouraging today’s generation to continue the work of the original Freedom Rides that fought against segregation.
“Folks got on a bus 60 years ago. That wasn’t the finishing of a race, that was passing of a baton. A new generation has to take on the fights and win more freedom and more opportunities and more justice for all of us,” said Markus Batchelor.
Batchelor, a native Washingtonian, activist and deputy director for Leadership Programs at People for the American
Way, uplifted the crowd with his encouraging words.
The event brought out various speakers and singers to help celebrate the new federal holiday and to bring attention to the fight for constitutional liberties and equal rights.
Other participants at Sunday’s event included the W. Crimm Singers, Novella McCline Page, Activist Professor Gloria McKissack, Frankie Keeling, Mary Jean Smith, Etta Simpson Ray, and Rev. Troy Merritt Jr.
Throughout the BVM rally the power of the vote was emphasized. The voting battle is significant as legislators in various states are trying to make it more difficult to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states have already passed 22 laws this year that will make it extremely difficult for Americans to vote. This has a huge impact on minorities.
The 14 states are Idaho, Arizona, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
“What we are seeing are examples of an attempt to interfere with that right, an attempt to marginalize and take from people, a right that has already been given,” Vice President Kamala Harris has said.