As a call to action for the right of disenfranchised Americans to vote, faith leaders attended the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TXLBC) on Monday.
Several demonstrators gathered in front of the Unity Baptist Church in Northeast Washington for prayer and speeches, with some carrying signs that said, "Let the people vote."
Speakers included TXLBC members Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Rep. Carl Sherman of the Church of Christ, as well as TXLBC treasurer Rep. Jarvis Johnson.
Rev. Charles McNeill of Unity Baptist Church in Washington D.C., Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and Rev. John J. Nicholas Jr. of St. John Baptist Church in Arlington, VA, were among others who spoke.
Still, Regarded as Second-Class Citizens
Kenyan McDuffie, a D.C. councilor, praised the Texans for speaking up on behalf of minority voters throughout the nation.
“There's a special connection between Texas and the folks here in Washington DC,” he said. “It takes all the way back to the Civil War era.”
From there, he provided a brief overview of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which declared that slaves who resided in the southern or Confederate states were no longer to be treated like slaves under federal law.
He said that despite the 1965 Voting Rights Act, DC residents continue to be denied representation in Congress. The "700,000 District residents," he said, continue to live in the nation's capital as "second-class citizens."
"Let that sink," he said...We absolutely must stand together to advocate for the rights and privileges of fluid democracy in these United States, Texas, and all across the country."
Wrapping up his speech, he claimed that Republican lawmakers are trying to revert to the "Jim Crow" period of voting suppression.
In her 25th session of the Texas Legislature, TXLC Chair Senfronia Thomas shared that she is still regarded as though she is not good enough to vote despite becoming a state representative and paying her taxes.
She said that a survey must be conducted to identify minorities' voting rights and that these rights should not be infringed upon.
"All we're fighting about is to say that we are Americans, and the Constitution speaks to us, just like it speaks to everybody else," she said.
Texas State Rep. Carl Sherman of DeSoto delivered the closing prayer, calling for God to bring them justice.
"We just want people to be able to have the freedom to vote, Father. We come here in the state of duty," he said.
Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
The local clergy also donated a check for $11,350 to help the lawmakers during their month-long exile from Texas and to show their support for their cause.
While presenting the cheque, a member of the Missionary Baptist ministers conference said that they want to "put their money where their mouth is," followed by a call to action in support of the cause.
"We're stepping up, and as Rep.Jarvis Johnson has said, we're calling on everyone to get involved in this fight," the member added.