McGovern, Perry join call for voting rights at Northampton rally 

  • Patrick Bukowski holds a sign while U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton City Councilor Garrick Perry speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton City Councilor Garrick Perry speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton City Councilor Garrick Perry speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jim McGovern speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton City Councilor Garrick Perry speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Of Action For Voting Rights rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/17/2022 3:12:45 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Amid the snow, slush and sleet on Monday morning, the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was upheld with a standout in front of City Hall.

Traditionally, the federal holiday is marked by celebrations all over the country to remember the civil rights leader. However, this year, King’s family — his oldest son, Martin Luther King III and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and his 13-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King — have called on citizens to honor King by holding a day of action centered around expanding voting rights. (See related story, Page B3.)

More than 20 people heeded that call in Northampton, sporting rain boots, umbrellas and signs, many of which read: “No celebration without voting rights legislation.” The event was sponsored by Indivisible Northampton, a progressive grassroots political and social advocacy organization, in collaboration with the Declaration for American Democracy and other allies.

“MLK worked for voting rights, in fact, he lived and died for it,” said Beth Lev, one of the leaders of Indivisible Northampton. “As he taught us, whatever our color, background or where we live, every American should have the right to vote.”

Advocates of those groups were joined by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Northampton City Councilor Garrick Perry, both of whom gave speeches advocating for the passage of voting rights legislation from behind an “every vote counts” banner.

“This is not a day for celebration, unfortunately. What is happening in this country is unconscionable,” McGovern said. “In states all across the country, Republican legislatures are working overtime to try to deny people the right to vote.”

McGovern said the concern with voting rights goes beyond suppressing the right to vote as Republicans are appointing people to non-partisan, non-political boards that will oversee elections, so that “if they don’t like the results, they can nullify them.” He encouraged those in attendance to contact the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the offices of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and advocate support for voting rights as well as amending the filibuster, so a vote on voting rights legislation can be taken.

“This is a call for action. … Let’s also be clear: these attempts at voter suppression and the nullification of the vote are deeply rooted in racism and white supremacy,” McGovern said. “I was the last person on the House floor on January 6 when the Capitol was attacked, when our democracy was attacked. There were people walking through the Capitol with Confederate flags. That didn’t even happen during the Civil War. That tells you all you need to know behind this movement.”

For Perry, the opportunity to speak on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a humbling experience. While he spoke to the crowd, his 9-year-old daughter, Cailyn Perry, stood behind him. At one point, he mentioned her and his other daughter, Logan, and how important representation is when it comes to inspiration. Cailyn said watching her father speak was “definitely a learning experience.”

Perry was elected to the Northampton City Council this past November. He is the second African American man to win election to the council. During his speech, he referenced King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech and its historical significance, while adding how relevant it is in today’s day and age. He acknowledged how fortunate he was to reside in such a progressive community and advocated for support for others in other parts of the country that need further elevation.

“‘Either we go up together, or we go down together’,” Perry said. “And let’s be real: I may be new to politics, but I’m not new to being Black in America and I know that representation matters. I stand here as only the second African American male to ever hold office on the City Council. And while I’m honored to have this distinction, I think it goes to show how much more forward Northampton has to go. Our city is a testament that change does occur, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that must be nurtured and protected and built upon.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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