Voting rights in America under attack. Just this year, states across the country have passed dozens of restrictive voting laws, while Republicans continue to block comprehensive voting reform legislation in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Supreme Court also recently gutted what remained of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965—a law that the late Congressman John Lewis helped get passed—leaving even fewer protections in place.
To send a message about what’s at stake, Congresswoman and Chair of the Black Congressional Caucus Joyce Beatty joined a group of voting rights activists inside the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday to peacefully protest—and was promptly arrested. The same day she tweeted: “You can arrest me. You can’t stop me. You can’t silence me.” Below, in her own words, Beatty tells ELLE.com why she felt called to march that day and why she isn’t stopping now.
When I got up on Thursday morning, I wanted to feel empowered. I was very conscious in choosing my dress code. My shirt, which read “Protect Our Voting Rights,” was obvious. I wore a red, white, and blue beaded bracelet that was made in Africa. I draped myself in the red, white, and blue of democracy. It was important for me to make a statement about who I am—a strong Black woman who wanted to stand tall for other young girls.
That day, I joined an intergenerational group of Black female leaders and allies to stand up to protect our voting rights. The Voting Rights Act was passed 56 years ago, and yet we are still revisiting how to protect our rights today. We’ve witnessed Senate Republicans refusing to engage in meaningful dialogue in drafting federal legislation to ensure all Americans have equal access to vote. We’ve just been visited by members of the Texas delegation, who came to D.C. in order to block voter restrictions in their state. So when the clarion call came to stand up, to say something, to do something, to get the attention of the nation, I said absolutely. I really thought this could be a moment in history, and I wanted to be a part of it.
As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is our number one issue. And as a Black woman, it was important for me to do more than just say this is our issue. Think about the power of one. One person can make a difference. Rosa Parks did it. Martin Luther King Jr. did it. Fannie Lou Hamer did. Harriet Tubman did it. So why not Joyce Beatty?