On August 6, 1965 President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (officially known as "An act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes."). This Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that came out of the Civil Rights movement of the sixties. The VRA was crafted to put some teeth into the 15th Amendment.
The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, provided that, "The right of U.S. citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.". Until the signing of the VRA there was virtually no way on a federal level to ensure that the states were in following the amendment. This was the time when Jim Crow laws, violence, and scare tactics were used to keep African Americans from voting.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about voter suppression laws, its impact, and the role that ALEC has played and is playing to get these laws passed. Before I get into the importance of understanding the danger of these laws, we need to understand how this is happening and ALEC’s (American Legislative Exchange Council) role in all of this.
ALEC‘s membership roll is literally a who’s who of major corporations, state, and local officials. It mission is to “ provides a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues”. ALEC assists in the creation of “model bills” that in some cases are the basis for the ones that are introduced during the state legislative sessions. In other words corporations are working with our elected officials to affect change. On the surface this may not sound like a bad idea, the problem is that ALEC is all about the conservative agenda. This agenda is not necessarily in our best interest.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the You Too Can Go To College Fair. This event was the brainchild of the brothers of MALIK Fraternity Inc. I must say that the fair was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To see so many eager young men and women with a sincere interest in going to college was a heartwarming experience. Representatives from over seventy colleges and universities came to PS 46 in Harlem, NY to participate.
Why are events such as this one important? Why must there be more of them? Here are the statistics for young men and women in 2011:
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.