Martin Luther King III and Over 80 National and Grassroots Groups Announce MLK Day Mobilizations Calling for No Celebration Without Voting Rights Legislation
MLK Day Holiday Will Send Clear Message to President Biden and Congress: You Delivered for Bridges, Now Deliver for Voting Rights
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The National Urban League, National Action Network, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Voto Latino, SEIU, MoveOn, Demos, Working Families Party, Sierra Club, African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), and More will Join Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King and Yolanda Renee King for MLK Day Weekend
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King and Yolanda Renee King, alongside dozens of national and grassroots organizations representing millions of voters nationwide, announced mobilizations on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to restore and expand voting rights to honor Dr. King’s legacy. The actions will call on President Biden and the Senate to urgently pass federal voting rights legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and ensure the Jim Crow filibuster doesn’t stand in the way.
Americans just saw President Biden use the full weight and power of his office to ensure Congress passed the infrastructure bill — his leadership secured over $1 trillion for our nation’s roads, airports, seaports, and bridges. Now, voters are demanding the President and Congress do the same to pass federal voting rights legislation. Throughout MLK Day weekend, Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King and partners will cross symbolic bridges to send a clear message to President Biden and Congress: you delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights.
“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” said Martin Luther King III, Chairman of the Drum Major Institute. “Like those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, we will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America.”
The mobilizations will begin in Arizona on January 15, Dr. King’s birthday, where Martin Luther King III’s family and local groups will rally supporters across Phoenix, in alignment with the Arizona Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee. Actions will culminate in D.C. on January 17, where the family and hundreds more will cross the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and join the annual D.C. Peace Walk: Change Happens with Good Hope and a Dream.
Groups organizing, amplifying and supporting these actions include The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The National Urban League, National Action Network, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, SEIU, MoveOn, Demos, Center for Popular Democracy, Voto Latino, Declaration for American Democracy, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Coalition for Peace, Faith in Public Life, When We All Vote, March For Our Lives, Indivisible, Bend the Arc, African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, CASE Action Fund, UNITE Here Local 11, Our Voice Our Vote Arizona, Poligon Education Fund, The [email protected] Coalition, Common Defense and more.
The MLK Day mobilizations follow a year of coordinated attacks on the voting rights of Black and Brown communities. In 2021 alone, Republican state legislatures introduced over 400 anti-voting bills and enacted 33. These suppressive bills — which were introduced and passed after Black and Brown voters showed up in record numbers to deliver Democrats a governing trifecta — close polling centers, purge voter rolls, eliminate early voting, and gerrymander Black and Brown voters into predominantly white districts. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s Brnovich v. DNC decision further gutted the Voting Rights Act, a bill Dr. King played an instrumental role in passing. Federal voting rights legislation will help overturn these Jim Crow-era state bills and put key protections in place.
“On the historic day of service to commemorate my father-in-law and continue his work, we will join our voices together to call for no celebration without meaningful voting rights legislation,” said Arndrea Waters King, Activist and President of the Drum Major Institute. “Voting is an essential part of our democracy’s infrastructure, and we cannot afford for it to crumble any further. President Biden and Congress must fight for the voting rights of Black and Brown Americans the same way they fought for our bridges — with every ounce of power their office provides.”
Voters across the country are invited to support the call for voting rights legislation by joining mobilizations in Phoenix and D.C., signing the “Deliver for Voting Rights” MoveOn petition, contributing to Give Us the Ballot to support grassroots voting organizers in your community, sharing support on social media using the hashtag #DeliverForVotingRights and calling their Senator to demand action.
Please find the full list of partners here and their commentary below:
“For democracy to work for all of us it must include us all. It is what Dr. King and so many others marched and died for. But right now Senate Republicans are blocking transformational voting rights bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, from even being debated,” said Wade Henderson, Interim President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Opposing our freedom to vote is a direct attack on the well-being of our communities and another roadblock to prevent us from ensuring our democracy works for all. We’re calling on President Biden and Senators to do whatever it takes to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, and honor Dr. King’s legacy. The freedom to vote is too important to let anti-voter politicians stand in the way of our democracy.”
“Dr. King’s legacy reminds us that our right to vote was not easily won and it must be vigorously defended,” said Marc H . Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The right to vote is foundational to our democracy. We saw what happens when we make voting more accessible for all, and we were inspired. Those unpatriotic members of state legislatures who would seek to undermine voting rights saw it too, and it scared them. Dozens of states have introduced antidemocratic voter suppression bills after the 2020 election. The President and Congress can no longer stand by and allow this to happen. They must set a new national standard for voting and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength, even if that means overcoming the filibuster. And standing on the shoulders of Dr. King, Coretta Scott King, Whitney M. Young and many others, we have to hold them accountable for doing so. We must protect the right to vote, our most sacred right as Americans.”
“Another year has passed as we mark the life of civil rights giant Martin Luther King Jr. Although unfortunate, we continue to find ourselves fighting in the light of his legacy and goals to create more equality,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, President and Founder of National Action Network. “Our people have power and that was shown during the 2020 election in which Black people showed up for democracy. With Congress coming to the end of negotiating and passing legislation to keep the country thriving, it is now time for them to keep their promise to bring the reformation of voting rights to the forefront of the national conversation – there is no celebration without meaningful legislation.”
“Our vote is our power. Protecting and expanding voting rights is a pillar of our democracy and inextricably linked to preserving other core civil liberties, including reproductive rights,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “It’s no coincidence that the efforts to deny the freedom to vote through voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering are being pushed alongside regressive policies, which disproportionately harm Black and Brown people, women, people with low incomes, and the LGBTQ+ community. Congress and the Biden-Harris administration must act. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is proud to stand with our partners in calling on leaders to deliver for voting rights.”
“Working people are on the verge of taking a step forward in building a more equitable economy through the historic Build Back Better Act. However, we cannot realize this part of Dr. King’s bold vision for our nation when self-interested lawmakers in states like Georgia and Texas are aggressively passing legislation to take our nation back to the days of Jim Crow,” said Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President. “When voting rights are under attack so is our ability to expand access to care, create good jobs, build a pathway to citizenship, address climate change and reimagine our justice system. That’s why SEIU’s 2 million members, worker leaders in the Fight for $15 and a Union, and our allies are demanding that Congress end this attack on voters by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, Freedom To Vote Act and The Washington DC Admission Act.”
“81 million people in a multi-racial and multi-generational coalition mobilized to deliver both Congress and the White House, and it’s time for Democrats to follow through on the promises they ran on. Without Democrats’ leadership on democracy and voting rights legislation now, we could lose the opportunity to take bold action for generations and silence the voices of millions in our elections,” said Rahna Epting, Executive Director of MoveOn. “Republicans at every level of government are working overtime to systematically restrict access to the ballot box, especially for the voters of color who showed up so powerfully for Democrats in 2020. The right to vote is one of the most fundamental values of our country, and we urgently need Democrats to use the chance they have to preserve it. We can’t afford to wait or suffer through any more hollow platitudes and symbolic gestures. Now is the time to honor the legacies of Dr. King, Congressman John Lewis, and everyone who sacrificed for the right to vote by passing federal legislation to protect it.”
“The United States of America cannot care more about its roads and bridges than it does about the people who build them. That means we need Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act to give people a fair shot in our economy and to approve the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to honor every American’s right to participate in our democracy,” said Taifa Smith Butler, President of Demos. “With dozens of laws aimed at making it harder for Black and brown Americans to vote enacted in the last year alone, the stakes are too high for this country to ignore the threat before us. Just as lawmakers took action to repair America’s broken infrastructure, members of Congress must fulfill their duty to repair our broken democracy.”
“Every person in this country — no matter their skin color, their zip code, or their political affiliation — has the right to drink clean water, to breathe clean air, and to be free to exercise their democratic rights to make their voice heard. Our ability to tackle the climate crisis, make true progress in the fight for racial justice, ensure quality healthcare, and build safe and healthy communities depends on having a strong and well-functioning democracy,” said Ramón Cruz, President of Sierra Club. “The Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act together represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by ensuring a strong, healthy democracy and protecting the freedom to vote for Americans today and for generations to come. President Biden and the Senate cannot let anything — be it Republican obstruction, dark money, or the racist, outdated filibuster — stand in the way of the bold transformational democracy reforms our country so desperately needs.”
“We’re excited to join with our friends, allies and the King family to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the Deliver For Voting Rights weekend of action. The fight to ensure access to the vote for all eligible voters is one of the most critical struggles of our time. We know that equitable access to the ballot has been instrumental in helping communities that face the harshest challenges as well as helping communities of color gain real representation and will help ensure that our leaders truly reflect who we are. Voting access has been particularly important to women’s progress, helping to protect critical gains. Women of color, especially Black women, have been among the most reliable voters. These activists on the ground have been at the center of the fight for voting rights. In order to truly honor Dr. King’s legacy we call on lawmakers to go beyond words and to take legislative action to expand and protect our democracy,” said Jocelyn Frye, President of National Partnership for Women & Families.
“A healthy environment and a healthy democracy are inextricably linked,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). “It is not a coincidence that communities of color, immigrant, and low-income communities that suffer the most from environmental injustice are the same communities that have been historically targeted with voter suppression tactics. In a year where over 400 voter suppression bills were introduced in state legislatures, we are proud to join with the King family and our democracy partners in calling for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Washington, D.C. Admission Act.”
“This MLK Day is a reminder of the fight that was waged by Dr. King, John Lewis, Dolores Huerta, and other civil rights leaders, to ensure every American has their fundamental right to access the ballot box protected. It is the fight we must show, now, to preserve these protections and guarantee all voices are heard equally in our democracy,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino. “Restrictions on early voting, voting by mail, registration, and more, are designed to silence Black and Brown voters, young voters, and working voters who can’t take time-off to stand in hours-long lines on Election Day. These voters are the key to a thriving democracy, and voting rights underpin every other issue our communities are trying to advance. In 2020 we voted for change, and we need to see that change ahead of 2022 before our voices are silenced. The federal government must step in to ensure every American has an equal opportunity to be heard and represented in our democracy, and Senator Schumer and President Biden must urgently pass federal voting rights legislation, upholding their promise to Americans to protect that fundamental right to vote.”
“The voter suppression tactics we are seeing today is what Dr. King, and countless civil rights leaders, worked to eradicate more than 55 years ago. After record breaking turnout in 2020, during a global pandemic, those threatened by our diverse collective have purposefully put up barriers in an attempt to silence us,” said Stephanie Young, Executive Director of When We All Vote. “Now is not the time to be complacent. The urgency to remain vigilant in the fight to protect our access to the ballot box is critical for the health, strength, and future of our democracy for generations to come. Congress must act to protect the voices of the millions of American they are in office to serve by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We’re in this fight until the end.”
“Democrats have a choice to make: fight for voting rights with just as much vigor as they fought for infrastructure, or concede our democracy to the Jim Crow filibuster,” said Sean Eldridge, President and Founder of Stand Up America. “There’s a lot going on in Washington these days, but nothing is more important than protecting our freedom to vote. It’s time for Democrats to make good on their campaign promises to do exactly that.”
“Our democracy works when all eligible voters can cast their ballot freely and fairly. Yet the 700,000 people — majority Black and brown — living in D.C. have been denied their full voting and civil rights for over 200 years,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia. “Egregious examples of voter suppression are over 400 anti-voter bills introduced in 48 states in recent years and the denial of full voting rights to the residents of D.C. In order to protect Dr. King’s legacy on democracy and equal rights, every member of Congress should support D.C. statehood and voting rights legislation.”
“Fifty-seven years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we are still fighting for the same voting rights that Dr. King and countless others put their blood, sweat, and tears into. We are disappointed, but like our ancestors, we will continue to call on our elected officials to pass voting rights legislation and eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster,” said Dr. Jannah Scott, Leadership Council Member of African American Christian Clergy Coalition (AACCC). “Justice and equity are God-given rights that should never be denied and must be defended aggressively. Broken rules like the filibuster severely impact our communities of color in our country, and it’s time for Congress to choose our rights over the Jim Crow filibuster.”
“I democracy flourishes when each and every one of us is empowered to engage fully and freely in the cornerstone that supports it, our electoral process” said Analilia Mejia, Co-Executive Director of The Center for Popular Democracy. “Our representatives must take determined and bold action to protect it, starting with the passage of federal voting rights legislation and continued action to protect our right to vote.”
“The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are proud to stand with this coalition and all Americans who understand that voting rights are a fundamental component of citizenship,” said Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). “We know that voting rights give all our communities a voice in guiding the policies most impactful on our lives and we cannot let this right be diluted or suppressed. That is why we must all work together to see voting rights legislation such as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed immediately.”
“Just over a year ago, the American people joined together to demand a government that is accountable to all its people. We can’t wait any longer — it’s time for our lawmakers to deliver on their promises by ensuring that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. “We must stop those who are working to disenfranchise Black and Brown voters in order to grow their own political power and wealth. Our multiracial Jewish community has fought for generations to expand access and protect the freedom to vote, and we won’t rest until this country recognizes the dignity, worth, and voice of every single voter equally, no exceptions.”
“The faction that fears the power of voters of color, voters with disabilities, working-class voters and other marginalized groups designed these anti-voter laws. Here in Arizona, they have also given partisan actors the power to sabotage valid elections — a frightening prospect that undermines our freedom to have a say in the decisions that affect our lives,” said Brendan Walsh, Executive Director of CASE Action Fund. “This MLK Day, we are demanding that President Biden and Congress deliver on the promise of democracy for all voters and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
“Dr. King often quoted the Biblical prophet Amos’s call for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. But today, Republican politicians dam up the waters of justice by intentionally sabotaging Black and Brown people’s freedom to vote. President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer and Senate Democrats must get off the riverbanks right now, wade in, and tear down those dams. It’s past time to align actions with orations,” said Jennifer Butler, CEO (she/her) of Faith in Public Life. “As we approach Martin Luther King Day, the faith community’s message to the President and the Senate is clear: no celebration without legislation. Honor Dr. King, and heed the prophet Amos, by delivering the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act now. The freedom to vote is the foundation upon which justice and a dignified life for all is built. That’s what Dr. King, and John Lewis, and generations of people of faith prayed and bled for. Our elected leaders must now do their part. Justice must once again roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
“The faith community has been tirelessly mobilizing for federal reforms that protect and strengthen our democracy. Recent revelations about the January 6th attack on our democracy are the final straw that must spur the Senate to action,” said Sister Quincy Howard, Coordinating Director of Faithful Democracy. “Faith leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. have been on the frontlines since the democratic founding of our nation, asserting the dignity and demanding the rights of Americans. We continue to be that voice of moral exigency at this pivotal moment in our history, demanding that Congress and President Biden pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis VRAA into law. This is not a partisan issue, it is a profoundly moral one that will define our future as a nation.”
“We’ve faced attacks by police dogs, fire hoses, and bloody beatings to secure voting rights for ourselves and our children to allow racism to keep us away from the polls. We will cast our ballots because our movement for justice is stronger than white supremacy,” said Marcela Howell, CEO and Founder of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. “We applaud the House for passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and we demand that the Senate immediately do the same. The protection of this most fundamental constitutional right for Black people requires swift action; we will not accept delay.”
“Democracy is suppressed in America when we aren’t afforded fair voting rights,” said Isabella D’Alacio, a Policy Associate of March For Our Lives and student at George Mason University. “How can we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy without one of the very foundational rights he fought for? Congress must act, and act fast, to protect the right to vote and defend Black and brown voters’ rights from assault. Each day Congress delays crucial voting rights legislation is justice denied once again. We cannot wait any longer.”
“From more frequent moving as a result of poverty and family rejection to a lack of accurate identification from queer/transphobic ID laws, Black LGBTQ+/Same-gender loving people face disproportionate challenges to voting. Disability inaccessible parking lots, long lines at polling places, and an expectation to present for others all limit our access to democracy,” said Victoria Kirby York, Deputy Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Our Democracy should reflect the diversity of our country and be designed for every one of us to participate. New laws and legislation are continuously challenging this fundamental value and maintaining a power structure that serves only one group of people. Our window of opportunity is closing, and it’s time Congress and President Biden urgently pass voting rights legislation to restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act and remove barriers to the ballot.”
“The youngest and most diverse generation in American history turned out in record numbers in 2020 to show their collective power at the ballot box. But since then, young voters and voters of color have come under attack by wave after wave of voter suppression aimed at silencing their voices and undermining their power,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, President of NextGen America. “Young voters did what was asked of them to save our democracy. Now, they need the people they elected to do the same. It is essential that Congress pass the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Washington D.C. Admissions Act. No more excuses — young voters and voters of color are relying on elected officials to take action and stand for their basic right to participate in our democracy.”
“We join with the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. to demand that President Biden and Congress uphold their oath of office and deliver on voting rights now. If federal voting rights legislation isn’t passed by the end of 2021, then we will unite with people of conscience across our nation to insist “no celebration without legislation” on Dr. King’s birthday,” said Ann Toback, CEO of The Workers Circle. “As Jews, we know what the slide into autocracy looks like. And we know the terrible price millions of people have paid historically and continue to pay when corrupt power takes control of a country. We will not stand idly by as voters of color are targeted for suppression.”
“Until we secure our right to vote, our communities won’t see progress on the issues that most impact us. Proposals of gerrymandered district maps and state voter suppression laws are being used to silence Black and Brown political power. The same filibuster used to uphold anti-lynching laws is being used to block federal legislation that would protect the freedom to vote for millions of Americans. UNITE HERE Local 11 members delivered for President Biden in 2020 in Arizona and Georgia — now we need the President and Congress to deliver for the American people: pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” said Beatriz Topete, Organizing Director of UNITE HERE Local 11.
“Building a community where every life is valued, every voice is heard, and the right to vote is appreciated requires more than good intentions. It requires action on every level that unites us and moves us into a reality where liberty and justice are not limited to debate but experienced by ALL,” said The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., Canon Missioner and Minister for Equity & Inclusion, Washington National Cathedral.