A Prayer, a Song, and a Call to Vote
October 17, 2022
On Wednesday, October 12, Interfaith America’s Senior Advisor on Racial Equity, Rev. Fred Davie, and Director of Racial Equity Initiatives, Rev. Alexis Vaughan, convened a virtual panel of community activist and faith leaders for a timely conversation, “The Vote is Sacred: Expanding and Securing Access to the Ballot“.
This inspiring and at times emotional conversation reimagined the way voting can be understood in America, particularly in Black and Brown communities. Speakers explored voting from a spiritual lens, identified the many and varied barriers to voting, and highlighted how interfaith cooperation is intertwined with a participatory government.
Expert participants included Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister for Middle Collegiate Church in New York City; LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund; Sheena Meade, Executive Director of the Clean Slate Initiative; and Rev. Eli Valentin, of the Hispanic Theological Initiative and lecturer at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Iona College.
Here are some compelling moments from the conversation:
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: What’s the world we want? How do we want it to look? Safe places for children to play, enough food on the table for everybody, seniors not having to pick medicine or food, right? Trans kids not being not having to struggle in their bodies, you know, gay folks being able to be loved and love who they love. Black lives matter. Black votes matter. Immigrants matter. All of those things that we speak into existence, we do it in the image of God, called in by God, and voice becomes vote, because we are citizens of this United States, not just of these United States, but we are citizens, come on somebody, of the reign of God, and we are called by God to build a healed and whole world with our voice and our vote.
LaTosha Brown: [sings] Oh, freedom, Oh, freedom
Oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave,
I’ll be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.
I thought I was gonna sing another song, but that is the song that came to my spirit. Because I do believe that captures even the spirit of why we started Black Voters Matter, which is we just want our people to be free. We just want to feel black liberation in a way that we actually are safe and secure, that our humanity is recognized that we have the same protection of rights as everybody else, that we’re able to operate unencumbered of oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of those things
Sheena Meade: We’re focused on creating those new opportunities and working with partners on the ground who’s engaged in civic engagement, you know, this is just that a policy shop campaign, you know, we are being intentional, centering directly impacted people, policy people, grassroot organizations, because we know that this issue intersects with many other issues that’s on the ground. And that’s the way that we’re doing our work. And we’re going to faith community because we know that redemption, no matter what faith tradition that you are a part of, you know, redemption, forgiveness and restoration sits at the heart of it, the foundation of it, and we want to leave with that, that message.
Rev. Eli Valentin: And when I think about voting rights, and access to the ballot, I see it as fundamentally a theological issue, because it is a matter that encapsulates our understanding in view of what it is to be human. And so I’ll put it bluntly, I believe that voter suppression tactics, I believe that certain bills are being proposed by some legislators in various state legislatures. I believe that they are a tax on the nature of the human being, as a creature made in the image of God. And by contrast, supporting expanded voting and ballot access, is really to embrace the idea that every human being is deserving of respect and honor, because we are all made in the image of God.
Through song, activism and an insistence on inherent human dignity panelist offered the audience a multi-dimensional view on voting, encapsulating what it means for the vote to be sacred. Discussions such as these help to expand interfaith bridge building, evoking change and increasing civic participation across communities. Find out more information on the Vote is Sacred initiative and to check your voter registration status.