Missed opportunity

Mollie F. Belt
Mollie F. Belt

The Dallas Examiner

Most of us are too far away from history to know the sacrifices made by many so that African Americans could vote. And many of us have not studied our history to know about the sacrifices made by others so we can vote today.

The stories have been told, but have we listened?

I know many stories. I lived in a segregated society, through the Civil Rights Movement, and I am blessed to still be living.

The story I like to share is that of a student from Dallas, Leiwanda Kayrette Jordan. Many years ago, we only had three high schools in Dallas that Negroes could attend – Booker T. Washington, Lincoln and Madison. Kayrette attended Booker T. and graduated in 1959. She was only 16 when she graduated.

After graduation, Kayrette’s parents, Dr. Frank Jordan and Julia Jordan, sent her to Fisk University – one of the Historically Black College and Universities located in Nashville, Tennessee. Kayrette’s father was a local physician, and her mother was a teacher and counselor with Dallas ISD.

At Fisk, Kayrette joined the Nashville Student Movement, an organization that challenged racial segregation in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This organization was created during workshops on nonviolence taught by James Lawson. The students from this organization initiated the Nashville sit-ins in 1960.

Kayrette participated in the sit-ins at lunch counters and was arrested several times in Nashville. Because of her young age, each time she was arrested she was sent to a juvenile detention center. Her parents immediately got her out.

Her mother – who is now deceased – shared with me that she and her husband were told by the authorities in Nashville that if they did not stop their daughter from protesting, they would put her somewhere where they could not get her out.

Julia said she asked her daughter why she continued to protest – though they continued to get her out of the detention center, she would go back to protesting and get arrested again. Her response was, “I am doing this for generations not yet born.”

Her parents finally had to send her to California to live with a relative to stop her from protesting. When Kayrette Jordan died, she had scars on her back from cigar and cigarette butt burns that she sustained while she was sitting in at lunch counters in Nashville.

Kayrette’s story is only one of many stories of young people who sacrificed during the Civil Rights Movement. Many lost their lives in the movement. They are no longer here to vote and have a voice. But we are here and do have a voice.

Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Give Us the Ballot address in 1957, “Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.”

Today, we have the ballot because of the sacrifices made by all of those who protested against injustice and the fact that Negroes could not vote.

We must vote to ensure that we do not lose the gains we have achieved.

On May 4, we had municipal elections in Dallas. We had an opportunity to elect a mayor and 14 council members. There are 1,363,892 registered voters in Dallas County. It is embarrassing to say that only 134,820 people went to the polls to cast their ballots. In other words, less than 10% of the registered voters voted.

This is not acceptable.

On June 8, we will have a runoff election and will have another opportunity to vote for the mayor of Dallas and Dallas City Council members for Districts 4, 7, 9 and 14. Additionally, Dallas ISD District 4 has two candidates in a runoff.

Read the election results article, Dallas County Election Results, printed in the May 9 issue of The Dallas Examiner, at http://www.dallasexaminer.com.

We have not always been able to elect people to office who will represent our interests, and it is not guaranteed that we will always be able to do so.

If we want improved communication with city departments …

If we want equal opportunity to do business with the city …

If we want improved safety in our cities and neighborhoods …

If we want the potholes in the streets fixed …

If we don’t want Dallas to look like two cities with economic development in one section of the city and not in the other … we must make our voices heard.

City elections will allow us to voice our interests and priorities to make our city better. This is an opportunity to improve communication with the city.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Vote!

Mollie Finch Belt,
Publisher
mbelt@dallasexaminer.com

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