March on Ballot Boxes Speech Relevant 50 Years Later

June 2, 2016

Sunday was a special day. Not only did we have the opportunity to celebrate the incredible, hardworking mothers and women in our lives, but, in a small town in South Carolina, a community gathered in an open field to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Fifty years ago on May 8, 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. visited the small, rural town of Kingstree, SC to deliver an extremely important message. It was his “March on Ballot Boxes” speech and it was one of only a few speeches he would ever give in the Palmetto State.

In his speech, he called on all citizens to exercise their right to vote — and to use that power as a way to bring about positive change in the community. His words of encouragement gave African Americans the confidence they needed to claim their birthright and make their voices heard.

To commemorate this historical event, the town of Kingstree, SC and Williamsburg County came together to host a 50th Anniversary celebration this past weekend at the same location that the original speech was given so many years ago.

The event included a viewing of the original speech as well as a historical marker unveiling. This special gesture allows for his transformative message to stand tall in Kingstree for generations to come.

Hundreds came out to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and reflect on his message and the current state of unrest that is happening in our country. His empowering speech hits close to home for me especially, as I continue to fight for equality for all, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status.

During this critical political election, where every vote is worth more than it has ever been worth before, it is extremely crucial for us to take his words to heart.

Now is our opportunity to rise up against those who are fueled by hatred and bigotry. We must rise up in defense of minorities. We must rise up in defense of those less fortunate. We must rise up and show that our collective voice is stronger and more powerful than any one hate-filled individual.

So today, I encourage you to vote. Let us come together this election year to prove that our country believes in protecting the rights and freedoms of all of our citizens. Let us show Dr. King that when he visited Kingstree 50 years ago to empower citizens to vote, that he did not do so in vain.

In the words of Dr. King, “let us march on ballot boxes…so men and women will no longer walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist…Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood is more than a meaningless word at the end of a prayer, but the first order of business on every legislative agenda…Let us march on ballot boxes until we are able to send to the statehouses of the South men who will do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. Let us march on ballot boxes.”

If Dr. King’s “March on Ballot Boxes” speech has taught us anything, it is that we cannot afford to be complacent. We must do everything within our power to push for progress in our community. We must ensure that our voices are heard — and that our voices will drown out those who strive to reverse the social advancements we have fought so hard to achieve.

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