This Month's Mission
In my 20s, I attended a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. that was sponsored by the National Black Caucus. I had the good fortune to hear a most eloquent preacher from Cleveland—Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a man who has since become a mentor and friend. He spoke about the advantages that we as black people often take for granted and the price that was paid in struggle and sacrifice, in lynchings and lives, for us to live as free people. He told a story that abides with me to this day. His father, a poor sharecropper, worked all his life to raise and care for his family, suffering indignities and humiliations that generations before him had long endured. For the first time, in his 50s, he went to cast his vote. On Election Day, he rose before dawn, dressed in his best suit for funerals and weddings, and prepared to walk to the polls to vote against a racist Georgia governor, in favor of a moderate. Six miles he walked, and when he got there, he was told he was in the wrong place and was sent to another location. He walked another five or six miles and met with the same denial, and he was sent to a third voting place. When he arrived at the third location, they told him, "Boy, you are a little late—the polls just closed." After walking all day, covering more than 18 miles, he returned home, exhausted and depleted, never experiencing the joy of voting.
He told this story to anyone who would listen, and he lived in great anticipation of his next chance to cast his vote. He died before the next election. He never got that chance to choose. So now I do. And every time I cast a ballot, I choose not only for myself but also for Otis Moss Sr. and for the countless others who wanted to, but couldn't. I cast a ballot for everybody who came before me and gave their life's energy so that yours and mine could be a force that matters today. Emancipated slave and civil rights activist Sojourner Truth, speaking at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron in 1851, said, "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!" We'd see amazing changes if women took to the polls en masse.
The most recent statistics are embarrassing and disrespectful to our female heritage—to every suffragette, to every woman who didn't have a voice but hoped someday her daughters might be heard. There was a time not so long ago in this country when unmarried women held no status, other than as old maids. Our opinions and choices didn't matter because we needed a man to bring us value. Now we have the power and have chosen not to use it. In the 2000 presidential election, 22 million unmarried women who were eligible to vote stayed home from the polls. While 68 percent of married women voted, only 52 percent of unmarried women did so. If single women voted at the same rate as married women, millions more ballots would have been cast. Remember, 537 votes decided the last presidential election. We owe more—we ought to do better and respect ourselves enough to be counted. Vote.