Aunty Lee’s memory is a bit cloudy regarding whether the first time she cast her ballot was in an election for local politicians or a presidential race, but one thing she knows for sure is her pastor at the time inspired her to exercise her constitutional rights and fulfill her civic duties. He said, “When it’s time to vote, make sure you vote. When it’s time to do grand jury, make sure you go.”
At age 20, Aunty Lee understood the magnitude of her pastor’s advice, given the disenfranchisement of Black folks that she witnessed growing up in Millers Ferry — including poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright violence and intimidation that prevented Black people from voting. To be a Black citizen in America but denied full citizenship rights epitomizes the hypocrisy of American democracy. This is a sad truth that I repeat like a blues refrain to my students.