FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The takeaway messages were spirited, heartfelt, and hard-hitting at Saturday’s “Stay Woke, Go Vote” rally at Miramar City Hall.
“Tallahassee is coming after you,” state Rep. Marie Woodson told the crowd. “Therefore, you need to also come after Tallahassee.”
About a dozen elected officials made emotional pleas to constituents, young and old, at Saturday’s gathering to register to vote, double-check they’re still registered to vote, and, most importantly, vote.
The mentions of HB 1, the so-called anti-riot bill, SB 90, which opponents say makes it harder to request a vote-by mail ballot, use a drop box or register to vote, SB 524, which opponents say creates a voter police force, and SB 2C, which opponents say eliminates two Black voting districts in Florida, stirred emotional responses from the crowd and officials.
“Right now, we are under attack in Tallahassee,” state Rep. Daryl Campbell said.
The key to making a difference is paying attention to what’s happening and voting, according to the officials.
“We want Black folks to understand that their interests are being impacted in Tallahassee and that they need to become more engaged in what’s going on,” state Rep. Chris Benjamin said.
Saturday’s sweltering heat didn’t dissuade the enthusiasm among the crowd. People clapped and cheered as they vowed to reach out to others and show them how to have their voices heard.
State Rep. Felecia Robinson said one purpose of Saturday’s gathering was to educate, motivate and mobilize.
Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam also made a plea to Blacks to get out and vote.
“The battle keeps going on and on and on, and there’s a constant chipping away of our civil liberties,” he said.
State Sen. Dr. Rosalind Osgood said Blacks can’t sit silently as bills such as HB 1 become law.
“We don’t need permission to say, ‘We’re Black and we’re proud!’” she said.
Benjamin agreed, saying elected officials such as Gov. Ron DeSantis don’t like Blacks to be “woke.”
“Being woke means being awakened to the things happening around you,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said he has a positive takeaway from Saturday’s gathering, but it’s also a reminder he and others must remain vigilant.
“It’s a lot more work to be done and that’s why rallies like this are necessary,” he said. “We’re trying to energize that base, we’re trying to get them to understand really what I said is true — as Black people, we don’t have the luxury to be apathetic. We just don’t have that luxury.”