The moon is full; crisp light and shadows dance with fervor amidst crackling flames. Black bodies move with the precision of finely tuned musical instruments played by a philharmonic. The chilly southern night with the starlit canopy serves as the chandeliers. Broken twigs mingled in leaves and soil constitutes the floor. In the wee hours of the morning, prayers in the sacred enclosure of the clearing in the foliage of a deep forest or swamp incubate the faith that births the Black Church. The rhythms, the charisma, and the purpose lend true to the sovereignty of the Hush Harbor.
“hush harbors” where they freely mixed African rhythms, singing, and beliefs with evangelical Christianity. It was here that the spirituals, with their double meanings of religious salvation and freedom from slavery, developed and flourished; and here, too, that black preachers, those who believed that God had called them to speak his Word, polished their “chanted sermons,” or rhythmic, intoned style of extemporaneous preaching. Part church, part psychological refuge, and part organizing point for occasional acts of outright rebellion…”
African American Christianity, Pt. I: To the Civil War, Laurie Maffly-Kipp University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ©National Humanities Center
It was in this setting that the African American experience intersects with the idea of America. No more significant identifier of the American paradox can be displayed than in the right to vote (Suffrage.) In a land that says “all men are created equal,” the constant struggle to expand voting rights beyond white male landowners has always been an issue.
According to Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research. “In 1957, churches and civil rights organizations got together to sponsor the “Prayer Pilgrimage of Freedom” demonstration in Washington D.C. Organized to celebrate the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled school segregation unconstitutional, the event became a rallying cry for voting rights.
The Black Church has been getting ‘souls to the polls for more than 60 years”
Like with the hush harbors of old, many African Americans have had only their faith and community for psychological refuge, organizing points, or a platform to speak truth to the power of injustice. Souls To The Polls involves an organized effort to register, load buses, and get people to the polls immediately after Sunday service. In recent years the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been all but gutted because the comfortable point of American Equilibrium has always been to have fewer voters and exclude as many people of color as possible.
In the Big Lie of the stolen election of 2020, those old epitaphs reemerged, saying “high BIPOC participation must be nefarious.” All disputed locations except Maricopa County, Arizona, were highly populated by people of color, i.e., Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Nineteen States have enacted laws that make it harder to vote, as a result of the Big Lie and backlash against high ethnic minority participation in the electoral process. These laws significantly affect BIPOC communities. The State of Georgia passed legislation for ending early voting on Sundays. This legislation was seen by many as a direct affront to Souls to the Polls.
Back to the word Suffrage, a homonym with a second meaning. The additional definition is “a prayer, especially a short intercessory prayer or petition.”
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”
1 Thessalonians 2 1-3 (MSG)
The Souls have been praying and going to the celestial polls since the antiquity of the hush harbors and beyond, unphased by intimidation, literacy test, poll taxes, count the marbles in a jar test, and even denial of water to those waiting in voting lines. As another Election approaches, in the name of all those who have sacrificed, endured dogs, fire hoses, fire bombings, lynchings, imprisonment, and their lives on foreign shores; let’s look at this scripture again, using the second definition of the Suffrage homonym.
The first thing I want you to do is vote. Vote every way you know how, for everyone you know. Vote especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”
By Kevin Robinson Founder/Editor, Publisher of Three-Fifths Magazine