Partners and supporters of the voting campaign and Rosa Park birthday celebration. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

The importance of voting was the central message at the recent celebration of Rosa Parks’ 111th birthday. The event held Feb. 3, at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center attracted more than 250 people of all ages who learned the reasons that voting is critical from an array of noted speakers including retired Congresswoman and Ambassador Diane Watson and former State Senator and L.A. Councilmember Nate Holden.

Jackie Dupont-Walker, director of Social Action for the AME Church, and Dr. Carliss McGhee, chair of the Inglewood School Board, were the lead organizers of the forum.  Serving as moderators were Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., president of The Bakewell Company and executive editor of the L.A. Sentinel; and Kellie Hawkins Davis, partner at EKA.

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Other participants were Aaron Hall, executive director of the Crenshaw YMCA; Kristian Huling, SEIU 721 political coordinator; Dr. Ife Jie, professor of African American History at L.A. Trade Tech College; retired State Senator Rod Wright; and Pastor William D. Smart, executive director of SCLC-LA. In addition, Dr. Thelma Day, Dr. Faye Geyen, Stephanie Loe, Cheryl Gully, Alison Featherstone, and JoAnn Williams volunteered for the event.

Rosa Parks is revered as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement due to her critical involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.  Her refusal to give up her bus seat in the colored section to a white passenger triggered the 381-day boycott and resulted in the court’s ruling that segregated buses were unconstitutional.   Thanks to L.A. Metro, a replica of the bus was displayed outside the venue along with a U.S. Postal Service vehicle emblazoned with the theme “Rosa Parks Says VOTE!”

Visitors tour the replica of the bus that Rosa Parks rode provided by L.A. Metro. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Highlights of event included Postmaster Jeremie Six committing to transfer mailed ballots to the County Registrar as quickly as possible.  Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union also expressed support.

“The goal is 100% voter turnout,” declared Gayle Hooks, COO of the Ebony Repertory Theatre.  She also reminded guests that voting could be conducted by mail, or drop box, or by visiting the Voting Centers until Tuesday, March 5.

Aiming to encourage the crowd, Dupont-Walker stressed, “In this election season, every voice and every action matters. The legacy of Rosa Parks is getting involved.  From this celebration of her 111th birthday, each person should leave fired up and ready to use their influence with voters wherever they go.  Voting is the key!”

Partners and supporters of campaign include:
1. Kemba Miles, president, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter
2. Taniya Luckett
3. Dr. Thelma Day, Semaj Day, LLC
4. Mark Robertson, Pacific Coast Regional
5. Lori Gay, Neighborhood Housing Services of LA
6. Cynthia Mitchell Heard, CEO/president, Los Angeles Urban League
7. LA African American Women Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPI)
8. Joy Atkinson, activist
9. JC Lacey, president, Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce
10. Robert Sausedo: president, CEO, Community Build, Inc
11. Yvonne Wheeler, president, LA County Fed of Labor

  1. Dr. Carma See Love, Humanist
    13.  Lena Kennedy, President – LLK and Associates
    14.  Patt Sanders
    15. Obadyah Brown
    16. Kelli Todd Griffin, California Black Women’s Collective
    17.  Beverley Morgan Sandoz, educator
    18. Kweli Umoja
    19.  Michelle Banks Ordone
    20. Black Voters Matter
    21. AME V-Alert of AME Church
    22. Rosa Parks Villas
    23.  Billie Green, community activist