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2005-08-08

Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder Speak/Sing Out for Voting Rights

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World renowned performers Harry Belefonte and Stevie Wonder speak at the Keep the Vote Alive march commemorating the 40th anniversary for the Voting Rights Act. [includes rush transcript]

Renowned Performers Harry Belefonte and Stevie Wonder attended the Keep the Vote Alive March this past Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia. The march commemorated the 40th anniversary of the historic signing of the Voting Rights Act. Organizers also called for Congress and President Bush to extend key provisions of the law which expire in 2007.

  • Harry Belefonte, performer and activist
  • Stevie Wonder, musician

For full coverage of the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act go to www.democracynow.org.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Harry Belafonte, actor, activist and calypso king.

HARRY BELAFONTE: Day-O.

AUDIENCE: Day-O.

HARRY BELAFONTE: That’s a wake-up call for George W. Bush. It’s a hot day in Georgia. And I don’t mean the weather. George W. Bush sits in the White House, and he has systematically, consistently and arrogantly ignored us. He has made the assumption that by our silence and by our wonderment that somehow we have lost the verve for battle. Let today be marked on his calendar, this hot day in Georgia is directed at him, is directed at his administration, for him to know that black people do not sleep. Black people are stirring. Black people are awakening.

We are serving notice on the world that there is another truth, that there is oppression in America. We have the largest prison population in the world, and most of that population is made up of black folk. There’s only one thing wrong with that picture. It is the fact that why aren’t we in prison? Why aren’t we filling up the jails of America as we have done in the past. Why are we not saying, we will march, we will violate, we will tell the people of America there shall be no more patience with this slow pace of administration. Let George W. Bush know that we have died for what we believe in, we have been arrested before. We will die again, and we will be arrested again, and that he is hearing this from another hot day in Georgia. Peace! Peace! Peace!

AMY GOODMAN: Singer, actor, activist, Harry Belafonte speaking at the "Keep the Vote Alive" march Saturday. We turn now to the legendary singer, Stevie Wonder.

STEVIE WONDER: First of all, I’m very happy to be here. Clearly, we have a choice in life, and the choices are to do something about what is happening in life, to make it better, or do something to make it worse. I think that your commitment in being here is the proof that you are here to make it better. That we have to have a march in 2005 to ask for the Voting Rights Act and its bill to be amended and for to us speak on having to demand that we have a bill that will guarantee the voting rights of all American citizens forever is ridiculous. But we are here to do that.

This is a very interesting day for me, because 15 years ago, actually, 17 years ago, my son, Kwame Morris, was born. 15 years before that, on the 6th of August, God blessed me with life because I was in a major car accident in 1973. And obviously 40 years ago today was when the Voting Rights Act was signed.

I challenge all politicians and leaders and all clergymen and women who take positions on things they are for or against, they will take a position for that very thing that is for we and every single American that should have the right automatically to vote. We have the right to pay taxes and we have the right to fight a war and die. Then obviously, we should have the right to vote. We must secure the right forever. All of you here and all of us here, we must educate and legislate the Voting Rights Act. Let our President sign a bill that says, there will be never a need for anyone to march again because the right of every single citizen of voting will be forever.

AMY GOODMAN: Stevie Wonder, speaking at Saturday’s "Keep the Vote Alive" march in Atlanta, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. When we come back from our break, we’ll hear from Congress members Cynthia McKinney. We will also hear from Jesse Jackson. We’ll talk about the efforts to renew the Voting Rights Act, and we go to Massachusetts to Northampton to speak with Professor Michael Thelwell. He was a SNCC organizer in Mississippi.

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