By Allen R. Gray
NDG Contributing Writer
Throughout history, the devices used to inspire Blacks to shake off their apathetic ways and vote have been a varied cacophony of methods and motivations. The newfound freedom of the Reconstruction period caused Blacks to shake off their shackles and line up at the polls. Then there were the godly and defiant speeches of the 1960s that inspired Blacks to live out their dreams and cast their ballots. With the dawn of the 21st century, Blacks lined up at polling places to make manifest the day some believed they would never realize, the election of a Black man as president.
Yet no one could have imagined that the egotistical and despotic ways of Donald J. Trump would provoke Blacks to stand in line for hours just to exercise their right to vote him out of the Oval office. Oddly someone so wrong could generate something so right.
In fact, in Travis County, Texas alone 97% of all eligible voters registered to vote in the upcoming elections. This upward trend is also reflected nationwide, as folks who were reluctant to vote—or who had never voted at all—are anxious to vote for what they hope will become a better America.
So, it was this past and recent history that was the driving force behind the efforts of Annette, a mature Black woman who had committed herself to vote on October 13th, the very first day of early elections in Texas. (Her name has been changed to maintain her anonymity and to save her from “embarrassment.”)
Annette’s day was planned out almost to the minute. She would go to her doctor’s appointment to address her prolonged medical issues, and then she would skirt over to the Cedar Hill Government Center and vote for what she believed would take about thirty minutes or so. What she found when she arrived at the government center, though, was something to the contrary.
First, there was no nearby parking, which meant Annette had to park across the street and at the backside of the local movie theater. Annette then walked several blocks to a spot at the end of a long and winding line of voters. She then learned that voters who were even more committed and eager than she had begun forming that line at 4:00 that morning; and that the wait to vote would be anywhere from three hours and more.
Annette is stern and resolute as she slowly and meticulously moves from one social distance marker to the next. She turns down an initial offering of water from a strolling poll worker. “Martin and John Lewis weren’t offered water when they had to march all those miles through the hot sun and vicious racist,” she said to herself. “My slave ancestors didn’t have a cool refreshing drink when they had to pick cotton from sunup to sundown. I can make it, too.”
That’s when a guy wearing a mask and t-shirt that were both inscribed with “Roland Martin” walked past Annette and others as he panned and recorded the long line of voters with a video camera, proclaiming “Beautiful. This is just beautiful.”
Wait! That was Roland Martin. “Roland Martin. What are you doing here?” someone wanted to know. With a gleeful grin that was evident even through the Roland Martin mask, Martin let them know, “I live in Cedar Hill, and I just finished voting.”
Annette social distanced her way out of the cool of the shade and into direct sunlight. She then rejects a second offer of water from the persistent poll worker, fearing that nature might make an untimely call and she’d lose her place in line. “Martin and slaves didn’t have water,” Annette repeated to herself. But Annette overlooked the fact that Martin and the slaves operated in times before global warming and that they had the protection of an ozone layer that has since been depleted by greenhouse emissions.
Fifteen minutes later, Annette’s mind is focused on the afterward, when she would have completed her civic duty and she would be snapping selfies of herself sporting her “I Voted in Dallas County” sticker and her sending those selfies to friends and family…Then she felt the sidewalk begin to slightly undulate.
A quick lesson on culture: when a Black woman flings her cell phone all the way over there and chucks her designer purse way over yonder, it means she is on the verge of death or already dead.
Suddenly the sidewalk made a move like a sidewinder causing Annette to unwittingly and violently separate herself from her phone and purse. Now Annette stumbled backward but luckily into the fortuitous grasp of the man in line directly behind her. The man laid the dead weight that was Annette in the grassy ground next to them.
The poison brewed by the likes of Texas Governor Greg Abbott had taken roots in Annette’s constitution and siphoned her body of its energy. She had avoided devices like single drop boxes for a county the size of Dallas and signatures that don’t match, but she was caught off guard by this war of attrition that was aimed at the physical dexterity of voters with preexisting conditions. Annette was not the only potential victim. Also in that long line of Cedar Hill voters were people of all races who were elderly, on walkers, on canes, and in wheelchairs.
But the pure of heart will not go quietly into some good night and the indomitable will of the American spirit rises like a phoenix.
Nearby, two police officers who were directing traffic saw the commotion. They rushed over to provide immediate medical aid. Then paramedics were summoned to check Annette’s vital signs and make sure that she would not die. After many minutes of intense medical care, Annette was finally able to stand as she was being supported on both sides by the police officers.
Another quick lesson on culture: when a Black woman is seen in public with twigs and leaves all through her hair and all over her cute clothes, it means she is on the verge of death or already dead.
The police officers removed the twigs and leaves from Annette’s hair and clothes and made sure she was again presentable. Annette stood nearly unflappable as she was being supported by the officers. Internally, she was even more than unflappable. She was an austere testament to resiliency.
A war of attrition is about a psychological wearing down of one’s adversary—but it also about the intestinal fortitude of the human spirit. Annette gently brushed the police officers away from her and she pulled back her shoulders. Then she boldly stated what no expected to hear…
“I still want to vote.”
To the massive throng of prospective voters that witnessed the entire event, those five little words proved to be both affirming and inspirational. It was exactly why they braved standing for hours on end in the vengeful sun so that they would be resiliently heard with the power of their vote.
The throng of voters spontaneously erupted into a thunderous ovation and cheered loudly for all that was brave and good and right.
Annette was whisked away and carried to the polling booths. The people inside repeatedly shouted out, “Y’all move! This is the lady who fell out!”
Annette was seated delicately at a table reserved for the disabled and the infirmed.
It was on that very first day of early voting in Dallas County, that Annette executed her right to vote for the candidate of her choice.
As Annette was being escorted out of the polling area and she placed her ballot into the depository, an elderly Black lady, who was a volunteer worker, asked her, “Do you want your ‘I Voted in Dallas County’ sticker?”
“Yes,” Annette responded without question. “I deserve it.”