April showers are supposed to bring May flowers but apparently the showers of April continued to cultivate and fertilize the seedlings and the fruit on the trees infected with the deadly pestilence of white idolatry and so-called supremacy.
Like many black faith leaders, parents and village elders, I have sat with the daunting reality of black post-modernity in the era of Trump. It is a reality that forces us to be inundated with real-time imagery of the lynching and bludgeoning of black bodies who, by their very existence – whether sleeping in their own beds like Breonna Taylor, jogging in their own neighborhood like Ahmaud Arbery or driving in their own car like Georg Floyd – presented threats to the blued-and-badged bullies.
In the words of Dr. Britney Cooper, this “necropolitical” environment beckons us to weather a pandemic, police brutality and the unelected governor in Missouri, who closed the state too late and opened it too early. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the governor suggests, “If you don’t feel safe on election day you should stay home.”
While we still haven’t dismantled enough systems to keep us safe from state-sanctioned violence, we do still have the right to vote. This right was gained by bloody battles in the lynching fields. This battle was fought by the likes of my mother, the late Carrie Jefferson, who journeyed weekly, without license or public transportation, 47 miles from our hometown of Demopolis, Alabama to Selma to fight for the right to vote in the 1960s. This battle took countless lives and left her with a scar on her leg, a souvenir from Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
It was a battle we won and a right we cherish.
Governor Michael Parson doesn’t get to decide if we vote. Yes, we want to be safe, and our ancestors already died so that we might live and vote. Our sacred memory tells us it is necessary to use what we have: our voices at the ballot box. It is a reminder that local elections matter. Elected mayors, commissioners, council people and governors get to appropriate budgets that enable corrupt and racist law enforcement officers to continue to peddle death on innocent and subdued black bodies.
An elected secretary of state like Jay Ashcroft of Missouri can make it safe to vote by instituting vote-by-mail policies. Governor Parson can also make it safe by signing SB 631 which allows certain people to vote by mail this year.
Watching the righteous rage of protestors in Louisville, where the barely remembered Breonna Taylor was killed in her bed, and in Minneapolis where George Floyd echoed the cries of Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe”), is a reminder of being on the streets of my beloved Ferguson. There is an election in some parts of Missouri on June 2, including Ferguson. You get to vote for a mayor.
Put on a mask and honor the ancestors and practice your resistance and physical distancing by casting your ballot in person, if you were not able to do so absentee, and remind the unelected governor that you will remember to do it again on August 4 and on November 3 when we get to elect a governor.
Reverend Cassandra Gould is the executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, the Religious Affairs director of the NAACP Mo State Conference and the Faith co-chair of MO Jobs with Justice. She is an ordained elder in the A.M.E. Church.