Lift Every



April 18 - July 31, 2018

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"Your ancestors took the lash, the branding iron, humiliations and oppression because one day they believed you come along to flesh out the dream." -- Maya Angelou


Until the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, African American men did not have the constitutional right to vote. (African American women did not gain the right to vote until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 when all women obtained this right). But, even with constitutional rights passed, many states prevented African Americans from enjoying the benefits of full citizenship through Jim Crow laws. These voter suppression tactics prevented African Americans from voting, many states enacted legislation that erected barriers to voting — such as literacy tests, moral character tests, property ownership requirements, and poll taxes.


Although many of these laws were "colorblind" at face value, they were designed specifically to exclude African American citizens by allowing white voting officials and poll workers to apply the procedures selectively. However, on March 7, 1965, hundreds of people gathered in Selma to march to Alabama's capital city of Montgomery (54-miles long). They marched to secure African-Americans' constitutional right to vote — even in the face of the segregationist system that aimed to make it impossible. After many bloody confrontations between peaceful marchers and the police, on August 6, 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law. The Voting Rights Act was designed to eliminate legal barriers at the state and local level that prevented people of color from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment. However, Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act became law, laws are still being passed across the country that makes it harder to vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, which allowed states to begin changing their voting laws without procedural protections in place.


This is a wakeup call! The time has come to flesh out the American dream and open our eyes to the American reality that no matter your skin color, race, gender or creed the fight for freedom has always been a battle. Our freedoms have always been hard fought and hard won. That is a fact. The idea that any dignity is intrinsic or inalienable would be to ignore the prolific lashes of history. Remember slavery was legal, apartheid was legal, the holocaust was legal, legality is a matter of POWER not JUSTICE.  But, the power to change, lies squarely in the people’s hands. From the Freedom Riders to the Parkland students; we have the power! We must let the many injustices endured fuel us to come together, organize, rise up and VOTE! In the words of the Black Panther Party: ‘All power to the people’ and all peoples to the polls, let’s make our culture count!


Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's

National Black Theatre
Institute of Action Arts