Marc Morial, New Orleans’ native son, gave an impassioned speech during his State of the Urban League Keynote Address at the 2012 National Urban League Conference, which was held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. His address was the formal kickoff of the four-day event titled “Occupy the Vote: Employment & Education Empower the Nation.”
As the former mayor and the son of the venue’s namesake, prominent civil rights attorney Ernest N. Morial, the National Urban League president opened his address with the following: “I cannot express in words the pride, sense of humility and great appreciation that I have for each and every one of you as I preside over this Urban League Conference. This is the city of my birth, the city that I love, a city that I had the privilege to serve and a city that has been an epicenter in the nation’s ongoing struggle for civil rights.”
His points summoned applause, cheers and laughter.
Here, we’ve outlined highlights from Morial’s “We Must Occupy the Vote” address.
National Urban League is Making a Difference
“The 2011 affiliate census demonstrates the profound impact of this recession on urban America. As more families faced job losses, reduced hours, diminished health services, and the threat of foreclosure, the Urban League Movement served as economic first responders. And, our affiliates provided critical assistance to more than 2.7 million families and individuals last year – a record for the Urban League Movement.”
The Fight For Civil Rights Continues
“In 1890, people were denied their Constitutional right to vote through poll taxes, literacy tests, and arbitrary comprehension tests. … The modern voter suppression laws are no less pernicious. As many as 5 million Americans could be denied their constitutional right to vote in 2012 and they are overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly racial minorities, senior citizens and college students.
“More than 1 in 10 Americans do not have the type of identification required by the new laws. Ruthelle Frank is one example. Born at home in rural Wisconsin in 1927, she has voted in every election since 1948. But she won’t be able to vote this year because she doesn’t have a birth certificate and can’t get a state-issued ID.”
Modern Day Jim Crow Methods
“Political candidates and elected officials have been very clear about their desire to suppress the vote.
“Consider: A consultant to [Robert] Bob Ehrlich, who ran for governor in Maryland, wrote – and I quote – “The first and most desired outcome is voter suppression.” The goal was to have “African-American voters stay home” and to “promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African American voters.”
“Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, campaigning in 2010, said – and I quote – “We want to make sure they don’t get 50 percent [voter turnout]. Keep that down.” He was speaking specifically about the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, the cradle of our Constitution, “Philadelphia, where 59 percent of the population is nonwhite, and is home to the nation’s fourth-largest African-American population. And hit off the press us and admission by the Corbett administration that they have not identified a single case of voter impersonation in Pennsylvania history.
“Michigan state legislator John Pappageorge said – and I quote, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.” Detroit’s population is nearly 83 percent African-American, and more than 32 percent of Detroit’s families live below the poverty line.
“We will not be confused. We will not be frustrated. And in 2012, we can occupy the vote. We will occupy the vote. And we must occupy the vote.”
Why We Must Occupy the Vote
“I am pleased to announce that the campaign we launched at the State of Black America at Howard University, called Occupy the Vote, moves into our new 100-day countdown phase.
“Our Occupy the Vote has three elements. The first is our online voter education center, which you can find at nul.org; the second is our 1-866-MYVOTE-1 hotline; and he third element will be an on-the-ground, grassroots effort in selected cities.
“We at the National Urban League do not endorse candidates, but we endorse democracy. We do not endorse political parties, but we endorse ideas.
“We cannot and will not stand by while our hard-fought Constitutional rights are decimated, trampled, diminished and marginalized.”