As I was leaving the voting room at Reid Street Center, Drew C. Wilson, a reporter for the Wilson Times asked me to explain why voting is important. I don’t think he expected my comments, so he recorded my answer in my own words. Why is voting important to me? One of my ancestors, Les Haskins was killed by the ku klux klan during Jim Crow. At that time to vote you had to pass a literacy test, which he did because he was one of the early graduates of what is now Shaw University. After he voted he was drowned in water that was about waist deep. His bloated beaten and bruised body was found a few days later. No one was ever charged or held accountable for his death, but everyone knew who killed him.
So, why do I vote? To honor Les Haskins, and all the other people who have died so that I, as a woman of color, can have the right to vote. Voting is my honor badge of freedom. As a mixed blood Toisnot Tuscarora with West African ancestry, people have suffered, being beaten, raped, lynched and killed in unspeakable ways for the right to vote on this land. Even when I turned of age, and Momma, Mama and Mat went with me to register to vote for the first time, I had to read a passage from the constitution and explain its meaning.
However, freedom comes with a cost! My payment is voting. Even when there is one candidate on the ballot, like today, I’m going to take the time to vote. People whose ancestors once lived free, value freedom. Thanks to my family and the stories that we pass down from one generation to the next, I vote to declare with a loud voice “Still Here!” A remnant of stolen people on stolen land has survived and is “Still Here!”