Invoking the struggles of generations of 20th century civil rights advocates to remove odious Jim Crow laws instituted in America in the 1890s from the nation's political and social landscape, organizers from LION organized a voter registration event at Babylon Town Halll on Sunday.
The Long Island Organizing Network (LION)-organized voter rights rally was headed up by leaders from a wide array of churches, councils and civic organizations.
More than a hundred listeners filled the area in front of Town Hall on Sunrise Highway and showed their support for Souls to the Polls, billed as a non-partisan, faith-based event to inspire, educate, celebrate and mobilize for the November elections.
Officiating at the September 30 event was Bishop Andy C. Lewter of the Hollywood Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral.
"Our primary concern is efforts to suppress voter participation in other parts of the country," said Bishop Lewter. "They're not happening here in Babylon, but we're determined to see that efforts like those do not creep here."
Reverend Keith Hayward of Bethel AME in Amityville offered a statement of purpose to get the afternoon rally started.
"We want everyone here to pledge three things," he said. "Vote. Get out the vote. And take other people to vote. We've come too far, and people have sacrificed too much."
Bishop Michael V. Talbert of the First AME Church of Wyandanch warned against complacency.
"Dreams die when good people get comfortable and forget the struggle," he said.
"The reason they want to take our vote is because they realize the importance of our vote," said Reverend Vernon Shelton of Holy Trinity Baptist Church.
Reverend Connie Davis-England also of the First AME Church of Wyandanch reminded the audience, "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere," and urged unity with those in other parts of the country who're addressing voter suppression where they live.
A number of speakers detailed the struggles of the 1960s, including those who died, shed blood or otherwise braved water cannons, attack dogs and domestic violence from the institutions that supported segregation in America to win civil rights in America.
And Reverend Pearson of the NAACP pointed out how voter suppression grew from Jim Crow Laws of the 1890s, when such onerous methods to exlude African-Americans from the voting process were used - such as poll taxes, literacy tests and asking "outrageous questions like how many bubbles on a bar of soap."
Pearson said, "The poll tax was a form of voter suppression."
Others who spoke included Reverend Maurice Chandler of the Center of Excellence Church; Reverend Patricia Rickenbacker of the Living Hope Fellowship Church; Reverend Elena Mayfield of the Tabernacle of Praises; Reverend Dr. Walter Willie of the Prayer Tabernacle Church of God in Christ; and Reverend Thomas Tolliver of In The Word Ministries.
On hand to hear speakers was Suffolk County Llegislator DuWayne Gregory,(LD-15).
"Voter suppression is a personal issue for me," he said at the conclusion of the speaking portion of the afternoon.
"I'm standing as your sentinel, and I'll be your first warning shot if any attempt to suppress the vote comes to New York state," he added.