Missouri Faith & Voter Advocates Host Vigils Honoring Legacy of John Lewis and Calling on Congress to Affirm the Moral Imperative of the Right to Vote 

On Sat. July 17, 2021, Missouri advocates will host Good Trouble Vigils for Democracy on the one-year anniversary of the death of Rep. John Lewis – joining more than 100 similar vigils happening at the same time around the country – to uplift his legacy and call on Congress to pass critical legislation to realize Rep. Lewis’ vision for a democracy that includes us all. The Missouri Vigils are being spearheaded by faith leaders around the state to uplift the moral imperative of the right to vote in a moment when partisanship is blocking needed action to protect voting rights for all. 

The Missouri John Lewis “Good Trouble” Vigils For Democracy, organized by the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition in collaboration with numerous faith leaders and community partners, will be held in St. LouisKansas CityJefferson City and Springfield on the evening of Sat. July 17.
The St. Louis event will include prominent faith leaders in an outdoor vigil at First Unitarian Church followed by a processional with the renowned Red and Black Brass Band to Maryland Plaza in the Central West End, where advocates will sing, dance and engage fellow community members in the call for voting rights. Vigils in Kansas CityJefferson City and Springfield, lead by faith leaders, local voter advocates and the NAACP, will similarly feature local leaders calling on Congress to take needed action to protect the right to vote by passing the For the People Act – which the late Cong. Lewis authored – and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 
“Faith leaders have been critical to every historic movement for voting rights and are especially needed in this moment to call out the dignity of all to have a voice in their destinies,” said Denise Lieberman, a voting rights lawyer and Director of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. The July 17 actions come on the heels of this week’s call to action by the President for Congress to pass needed voting reforms. 

WHO:    Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Central Reform Congregation, Missouri Faith Voices, Metropolitan Congregations United, First Unitarian Church, Missouri Baptist State Convention, Dance the Vote, St. Louis Area Voting Initiative, Missouri Jobs with Justice, St. Louis Voter Protection Coalition, NAACP, Missouri State Baptist Convention, Indivisible Missouri, Congregation Shaare Emeth and others – including remarks from: Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Missouri Faith Voices; Rev. Dr. Linden Bowie, Missouri Baptist State Convention; Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation; Rev. Kim Mason, First Unitarian Christian Church; Denise Lieberman, Director of Missouri Voter Protection Coalition; Joan Lipkin, Dance The Vote, among others. 
WHEN:  Sat. July 17, 2021,  6-8pm
WHERE:  6-7pm Vigil with Speakers at First Unitarian Christian Church 5007 Waterman Blvd. , St. Louis, MO 63108,  followed by processional with Red and Black Brass Band to Maryland Plaza. Event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectMissouriVoters

Missouri July 17 John Lewis “Good Trouble” Vigil For Democracy Events include

St. Louis Vigil for Democracy
6-8 p.m. Vigil: First Unitarian Church5007 Waterman Blvd., St. Louis MO 63108Followed by processional to Maryland Plaza with Red and Black Brass Band

Kansas City Vigil for Democracy
6-6:45pm 3708 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd. (Cleaver Blvd and Cleveland)Spirit of Freedom Fountain Kansas City, MO 64130

Springfield MO Vigil For Democracy
6:30-8p.m.First Unitarian Universalist Church of Springfield2434 E. Battlefield Rd. Springfield, MO 65084

Jefferson City Vigil for Democracy
8-8:30 p.m. Missouri Veterans Memorial at Missouri Capitol201 W. Capitol AveJefferson City, MO 65101

By Lynn Venhaus
Back in my news reporter days in ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, I loved working Election Nights. Pre-computer and smart phone, we would wait for each precinct to be tallied – those were the days of the “chads,” and it was a waiting game, many a long night.

We’d have good conversations among the press corps — talk about signs, trends, who was riding a sea change, and the status quo. We’d be at courthouses, trying not to get in the way of staff but needing to call in those numbers. Wade through the crowd huddled around a bulletin board to see the latest posted computer sheet print-out. Spot a candidate and get victory statements.

You see a lot observing candidates, party leaders and local government workers. Integrity, work ethic, decency — shouldn’t it matter?

The infamous newspaper headline in 1948

In my early days, I’d be live on small market radio with totals as we got them, or calling in to an editor. I would make arrangements ahead of time with some helpful official to be able to use their office telephone and they would graciously wait til the final count was communicated. I thanked them profusely.

That was in Illinois, and in later years, the Associated Press would contract me for the night to call In the local totals. to add to the national results. You know – those TV totals you would see on screen.

I was at the Marion County Courthouse in Salem, home of William Jennings Bryan and creator of a Miracle Whip, the night Carol Moseley Braun defeated Alan Dixon, aka “Al the Pal,” for the US Senate seat in 1992. Dixon had been a Senator for 12 years after serving as Secretary of State and Treasurer in Illinois, and 20 years in state legislature. (In my hometown of Belleville, he was a legend. Took care of his people. Knew everyone.) She was the first African-American woman in the history of the Senate.

About a decade ago, digital computers and 24/7 news changed things. With electronic results, you could look up a county online. They did not need us to be foot soldiers on the ground. We all moved on in the digital world. There is nothing like racing back to the office and Typing up the results to make print deadline, running on adrenaline, caffeine and snacks from the vending machine.

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore gesture during their third and final debate at Washington University Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2000, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

However, I was already home when, in the wee hours of the morning, CBS declared Gore won and then retracted it. Chaos. Supreme Court decided that W won in 2000, despite Gore winning popular vote.

I haven’t worked an election night for at least four election cycles. But I still like to watch the totals come in, whether it is primary, municipal or general election.

When there is an upset or a tight race won by a slim amount of votes, you feel like you see democracy in action. That the people have spoken. The turnout really mattered, changing lives.

Today, in the city of St. Louis, my polling place was quiet. I squirted hand sanitizer, got my Q-tip and opted for electronic ballot. Easy peasy. Thanked the workers — we were all in masks so you can’t smile but you can look them in the eyes.

Watching the totals isn’t the same, but what is?

Been voting since I was 18, the first batch of voters to be given that privilege in 1972, thanks to Amendment 26.

This is Democracy in action.

We the People.
What a precious ritual and right we have. Should be a cause for unity.

John Lewis, Freedom Rider

Never take for granted the power of an idea, the importance of grassroots efforts, and the desire to make a change, be the change. You see something, do something.

People died and were beaten for the opportunity to cast a ballot and make their voice heard. Voter suppression is real and still takes place today — if we do one thing to honor the late American hero, Congressman John Lewis, then fight for this right.

Never lose hope and do not give in to fear. Note to self: Absentee ballots are the same as mail-in ballots.

Sweet land of liberty. Let freedom ring.

And God bless the USPS. And all the poll workers today and every election.VOTE Nov. 3, no matter the method. Just get ‘r done.