Philadelphia revs up to get out the vote

PHILADELPHIA — More than 100,000 people filled the center of the city here Oct. 25 to welcome Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and former President Bill Clinton. Just two days earlier in the same city the Black Radical Congress (BRC) hosted a forum to get out the vote on Election Day.

Many in the crowd to hear Kerry and Clinton had waited up to three hours for the duo. A band played and thousands of signs proclaimed, “8 more days to a fresh start,” “Women for Kerry,” and “Teamsters for Kerry.”

“If this isn’t good for my heart, I don’t know what is,” said Clinton, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery only seven weeks ago. “From time to time I’ve been called the Comeback Kid. In eight days John Kerry is going to make America the ‘Comeback Country.’”

Kerry called George W. Bush’s policies on security wrong and reckless and said Bush has failed at the basics. “Are you ready for a president who can make common sense decisions about our lives?” he asked. The crowd shouted, “Yes!”

He promised to protect jobs, fully fund the No Child Left Behind law and support stem cell research. “This election is about us, not me,” said Kerry. “The world is waiting to see what you do on Nov. 2. Just remember, I’ve got your back.”

The Philadelphia BRC proclaimed, “an informed voter is an empowered voter,” at their forum at the Berean Institute. Vanessa Abernathy, president of the city’s League of Women Voters, went over the voting process, which will involve new electronic voting machines. The League is waging a campaign to have the machines print a paper record. It has also called for the Electoral College to be abolished.

“Bring an ID with you, vote early and, if your name is not in the book, ask for a provisional ballot,” Abernathy advised.

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas appealed to the crowd to help get the vote out Nov. 2. “It is our duty and obligation,” he said. “The present administration began with fraud, and has burdened the country with the greatest deficit in U.S. history, cuts to all social programs and services including education, a needless war that worsens daily and an increase in unemployment.”

Jay Woodson, a delegate to the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and a BRC member, spoke about his experiences registering voters and said he plans to go door-to-door in costume on Halloween with other convention delegates to remind young people to vote.

“A huge turnout in Philadelphia and other U.S. cities,” a leader of the local BRC reminded participants, “can result in a victory for democracy.”

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net.