On Monday, American women celebrated 99 years of women’s voting rights as part of Women’s Equality Day.
On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote.
As an African American woman, I celebrate this milestone along with all women. Still, I am reminded that it would take another 45 years before African Americans would have the same freedom as white women — without interruption.
I say “without interruption” because it was shortly after the end of the Civil War that the 15th Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing the right to vote would not be denied “... on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
A short time later, Congress enacted legislation that made it a federal crime to interfere with an individual’s right to vote. The legislation protected the rights promised to former slaves under both the 14th and 15th amendments.
This was good news for African Americans, who made up the majority of the eligible voting population in some former Confederate states. Back then, they were elected to office at all levels of government.
But not everyone was happy with this newfound freedom of former slaves — the right to vote and become elected officials.
By the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of decisions, eviscerated many of the laws that had given African Americans the right to vote, declaring them unconstitutional.
Intimidation and fraud by whites became the norm in stopping voter registration and voter turnout among African Americans.
Poll taxes, grandfather clauses, white-only primaries, vouchers of “good character” and literacy tests were just some of the asinine rules that were instituted to keep African Americans from the voting booths. When that didn’t work, the big guns were pulled out — death threats and even death to those who defied the new norm.
And while some of these laws were struck down — the Supreme Court ruled grandfather clauses were unconstitutional in 1915 in Guinn v. United States — it took years for African Americans to gain the basic right to vote.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements. Also, in 1964: the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing poll taxes in federal elections.
President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a federal law that banned racial discrimination in voting nationwide and banned all literacy tests.
We have made great strides in the voting rights of women and African Americans. We have more women in government today than ever before. We have had an African American president. And women — white and African American — are serious candidates in the race for the Democratic nominee of the 2020 presidential election.
Still, there are still too many women and African Americans who are not registered voters. And others stay home on election days.
All freedom-loving Americans must remain vigilant in voting rights. There are still those who would change the laws, if they could, to prevent African Americans from voting.
We can’t let that happen. Not ever again.
Learn about medical marijuana
Mark your calendars for Sept. 19. That’s when Temple Emanu-El, 1701 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach, will host guest speaker Dr. Yankel Gabet, D.M.D., PhD.
Gabet, who is from Tel Aviv University, will speak at 7 p.m. on “Cannabis and Cannabinoid-based Therapies in Musculoskeletal Disorders.” It is a subject on which he and his team have done intensive research.
Tickets are $18 per person. The proceeds will support the JCS Kosher Food Bank. For tickets and information, call 305-538-2503 or go to: www.tesobe.org.
Music program starting up for children
The University of Miami and the Historic Hampton House Cultural Center will sponsor a free music program for the youth of the community.
Parents who have children they would like to enroll in the program should call the Hampton House at 305-638-5800.
Student mission trip to Haiti
A warm Neighbors in Religion salute to the members of Monsignor Edward Pace High School who traveled to Port-de-Paix, Haiti, on their annual summer mission trip with Amor en Accion. The team spent 11 days running a summer camp for over 120 children from the Parish of Fatima in Port-de-Paix.
Members of the team included former students Brittani Garcia, Christy Pina, Carl Addy Calixte, current senior Amayah Novela and Andres Novela, director of campus ministry.
“We had an amazing experience working with the young people of Port-de-Paix this summer,” Novela said. “It was made even more special by the participation of so many Pace family members in the work of Amor en Accion.”
The group traveled to Jean Rabel for a meeting with an artisan co-op run by the Religious of Jesus and Mary, and visited the town of Bonneau to assist parish leaders in running a one-day camp for children.
The community is invited to a free workshop, “Relationships — Your Path to Free Your Soul” at the Universal Truth Center for Better Living, 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens.
The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 7 and be led by the Rev. Charles Taylor, senior pastor, and Shakira Taylor.
The workshop will explore how relationships can serve as a spiritual practice for a path to free the soul, fulfill one’s potential and be all that God wants you to be. RSVP is not required.
The workshop is free, but a love offering will be accepted.