The annual summer convention of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials--or GABEO--is taking place this week at Savannah State University. This year, the group is focusing on protecting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is up for renewal in 2007.
Georgia Rep. Tyrone (D-Atlanta) is president of GABEO. He told us an important part of the act is that which protects voters from interference while voting. "Section five, the pre-clearance section, is the section that's in jeopardy," he said. "That's the section that guards against any state cover from creating impediments to voting, such as at-large voting, poll taxes, literacy tests, and other schemes to deny people their right to vote."
They gathered by the hundreds to welcome political and spiritual leaders, such as Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and Rev. Jessie Jackson.
Organizers say it's about past, present, and future leaders, like young David Smith of Beach High School, who plans a career in politics to help bring about change.
"We can change our mindsets," he said. "I think too often people, they don't care or they don't have very high expectations. I think people should expect more from themselves, the people around them, and their government."
One of the highlights of Saturday's event was the arrival of the Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's family for a luncheon in their honor. As GABEO's president told us, without the civil rights work of Dr. King and others, there'd be no black elected officials.
"We want to say thank you to Dr. King's family," said Rep. Brooks. "The legacy of Dr. King is so profound. They have never been honored by any political organization in America. This is the first."
Echoing Dr. King's famous dream, attendees say it's about bringing the community together.
"The only thing that can come out of this gathering is unity," said Sen. Regina Thomas (D-Savannah). "Shared commonalities that we all have. That we need to work together. That we need to stay together. And that once we learn that we are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers, then we can progress our people, this state, this country more than we have in the past."
Delegates urged everyone to attend a "Keep the Vote Alive" rally in Atlanta on August 6. For more information about the event, visit http://www.rainbowpush.org.