If political involvement were hereditary, then it would be no surprise that National Urban League President Marc Morial remains vocal about civil rights and modern fights for them.
Attorney, activist and son of New Orleans’ first black mayor, Dutch Morial, Marc Morial delivered the NUL conference keynote address Thursday in New Orleans. During the address, he said that a “passion for public service” is his DNA, fiber, blood and bones. That passion motivated a critical speech that questioned democracy across the nation.
One of the primary American rights under attack is the right to vote, according to Morial, who equated widespread voter ID laws with freedom restrictions handcuffing community organizations that register citizens to vote.
The NUL president said that the thinking behind voter ID laws purports to be sane and sensible, yet “seeks to point the compass backward” instead of forward.
The laws overwhelming disenfranchise impoverished communities, college students, senior citizens and people of color, he said. As such, the NUL, a civil rights organization with nearly 100 local affiliates in 36 states, will not tolerate the “rise of the modern day poll tax.”
While the universality of voting rights is an American focal point during an election season, familial ties, yet again, link Morial with the cause.
Decades ago his mother was asked what color her eyes were when she tried to vote. After saying that they were brown, she was told that they were black and was initially denied voter registration, the NUL president said.
Morial said that she did not accept that response and would not leave until she was registered to vote. He stressed that today’s voters should not fall victim to “arbitrary comprehension tests” designed to remove certain voters from the political process.
He reminded the audience of Texas, a state that drafted a senate bill to make student IDs, Social Security and Medicaid cards invalid identification for voters, while concealed handgun permits are accepted.
Texas is not an island unto itself, as Attorney General Eric Holder previously noted.
“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012,” Holder said.
The sentiments echoed by various leaders at the NUL conference were that all Americans want education, sustainable employment and safe communities. All of those issues correlate with who is selected when citizens cast their votes.
New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu also brought home American values at the conference. He talked tough on addressing violence in “vulnerable communities” and valuing all Americans, including young black men.
“When we save our sons, we save ourselves and we save America,” Landrieu said.
The conference speakers maintained President Barack Obama’s momentum from Wednesday when he addressed NUL and said, “Violence plagues the biggest cities but it also plagues the smallest town.
“It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it’s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short.”
NUL prioritized young people and their role in politics when they hosted the State of Black America at Howard University in spring.
Morial said that voting rights remain an integral part of the organization’s focus as the 100-day countdown to Election Day nears. He encouraged listeners to call1-866-MY-VOTE-1, a hotline launched by the NAACP, NUL and radio personality Tom Joyne, created to help voters and answer questions about voter ID laws.
The NUL leader stressed action and reminded listeners that no matter who is elected, the US’s commander-in-chief does not hold a “magic wand.”