Common Cause Georgia Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

‘Day of Service’ can become ‘Year of Service’ to repair our country, restore rights

America has honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday since 1986. In 1994, Congress identified the holiday as a national “Day of Service” to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

Today, we move forward in a different direction.

The past weeks — and years — have shown us the fault lines in America’s promise. Today shows us the path forward, which must include accountability as well as action.

Traditionally, Georgians have celebrated Martin Luther King Day as a Day of Service to our communities: working together to improve parks, tutor students, deliver food and necessities to our seniors and in innumerable other ways. But this year, the COVID pandemic has made it harder to help each other even as it has escalated the need for help.

Georgians can help meet this challenge by dedicating not just this particular day, but rather the entire year of 2021, to serving and strengthening our communities.

One area we particularly need to focus on, this year, is our voting rights.

Dr. King would remind us that “disfranchisement is the main instrument for perpetuating racial injustice.”

The lines at Georgia’s polling places, back in June, showed the entire country that racial disparities in voting access are still real. Access was improved in the November and January elections, but some voters still faced barriers: a stark reminder that the US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and the US Senate has yet to pass legislation that would repair it.

We must work together to ensure that Congress passes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to protect the right of every American to cast a ballot and make their voice heard on Election Day.

We must work together to ensure that Congress passes the For The People Act, to clean up corruption, empower the American people and restore faith and integrity to our government.

We must work together to protect Georgia’s voting rights, including the right to vote by mail, the right to fix mistakes on absentee ballots and the right to cure provisional ballots.

We must work together to ensure that our state’s redistricting process is transparent and open to public input, avoids political gerrymandering, and produces legislative districts that allow for true representation of Georgia’s voters.

In Dr. King’s words: “We cannot rest. Laurels have not yet been earned. We must toil on during the hot sweltering summer months.”

Even during this pandemic, 2021 can be an entire “Year of Service.” 

There is so much work to be done.