The Alabama NAACP will host a three-day summit June 23-25 to discuss the impact of the Shelby v. Holder decision, how to further safeguard voting rights and issues specifically plaguing Black and Brown communities. The gathering is titled the “Shelby Democracy Restoration Summit.”
Organizers, voting rights advocates and community members all across the country, not just Alabama, are encouraged to attend.
“The Alabama NAACP seeks all Lovers of Democracy and Freedom Fighters to join us in Shelby County as we prepare to save our Democracy,” said Alabama NAACP President Benard Simelton. “We need to restore the VRA of 1965 to its full strength. We need to increase black voter turnout so we can determine our future. This will and can only be done by all of us engaging in the political process. See you in Shelby.”
A march will be held on June 23 in Columbiana to acknowledge issues affecting democracy and freedom. The march will begin at 105 W College St. Columbiana. The events for that day will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. as there will be a rally and meet and greet also.
On June 24, numerous strategy sessions will be held to discuss issues pertaining to social justice like voting rights restoration, police/prison reform, healthcare and more. The sessions will begin at 8 a.m. and will be held at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama, located at 75 College Dr, Montevallo. There will also be a discussion celebrating hip-hop and its impact. Grammy-award-winning singer Peabo Bryson will end the day with a concert at 8 p.m.
On the final day, June 25, will feature a non-denominational service and a gospel concert on the University of Montevallo’s campus. The day will start at 8 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.
June 25 is significant because it marks the 10th anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision. In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to end the preclearance provision of Section 4b in the Voting Rights Act. The provision required states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to obtain federal clearance prior to making any voting changes.
“We are issuing a clarion call to all who have seen the impact of an unfair, repressive system designed to put anti-democratic voting measures in place to disenfranchise Blacks and other marginalized people by people who do not believe in democracy,” Omar Neal, a summit organizer, said. “We invite all lovers and protectors of democracy to join us in Shelby County, Alabama.”
Without the preclearance requirement many southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia have seen an uptick in voter suppression tactics such as gerrymandering, harsher voter ID laws and purging of voters from the rolls.
A recent voter suppression bill, HB209, was presented in the Alabama Legislature during the 2023 Legislative Session. The legislation would have criminalized assisting voters with their absentee ballot unless you were first of kin. However, the bill died after passing the House and reaching the Senate during the final days of the session.
But a major win for voting rights advocates came in the Allen v. Milligan decision by the Supreme Court on Friday. The court ruled to uphold Section 2 of the VRA and that Alabama’s recent congressional district maps had to be redrawn because it suppressed the voting power of Black voters.
Simelton told APR that the decision was a win for the entire country but advocates and organizers must continue to fight to protect voting rights.
“It was a huge win for those in support of voting rights and a big win for Black voters in Alabama and all Black people,” Simelton said. “The key thing I believe is that the Supreme Court of the United States still believes there is a need to consider race when drawing redistricting lines.”