CEDAR RAPIDS — With just a little more than a week until Election Day, the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People focused the message of its annual Freedom Fund Banquet on the importance of voting.
Roughly 100 people gathered last night at the African American Museum of Iowa to celebrate the chapter’s 70th year.
And though Keynote Speaker Rod Dooley, a pastor at Oak Hill Jackson Community Church and Vice President of Human Resources Delivery at Rockwell Collins, acknowledged that many members of the community are feeling discouraged during this year’s election cycle, he said it is important that people show up to the polls.
“I think the importance of voting, to me, is there are a lot of people who have gone on before us who, if you look through their eyes, and if they saw this opportunity to vote without restriction, then they would make every opportunity to do that,” Dooley said. “And not only vote, but also encourage those people in our community who show leadership to run for office as well because we need to make sure that we have people who care about our issues, who want to continue to push for equality for all, to be in office.”
LaSharon Duckett, Membership Chair for the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP, which is a nonpartisan organization, said education, housing, unemployment, health and youth empowerment are issues that are especially important during this year’s election.
She echoed Dooley’s thoughts on voting, adding that not everyone in the community who wants to vote is able to.
“Voting is always important, it’s something that the NAACP fought long and hard for and worked with and collaborated with different organizations for,” Duckett said. “It’s not a right that you should just throw away. There are people who want to vote (and can’t) because they’re on probation because of felonies and things like that. It’s not something you should take for granted. It’s something that you should take for pride and, if anything else, it’s a freedom that you can freely exercise.”
Each year, she said, the banquet focuses on one specific issue affecting the Cedar Rapids community. Last year, the group discussed issues with unemployment and the impact it can have on the community’s youth — an issue Duckett said remains key to this year’s election.
“Youth are affected by unemployment rates as well, there’s not a lot for them to look forward to and do the right thing,” Duckett said. “We’re kind of used to living this idealistic utilitarian society where your hard work does pay off and now a lot of youth are struggling with that ideation in terms of being able to see the benefits of their hard work as fast as their ancestors did, or even one generation.”
Though both candidates have presented different approaches to solving America’s issues, Dooley said he believes both candidates genuinely care about the public and solving issues with the economy and unemployment.