Perry County Chapter hosts 'Singing for Democracy'

KFTC members, advocates for democracy and church members came together on Sunday, November 4th for the first Singing for Democracy in eastern Kentucky. 65 people came to the Consolidated Baptist Church in Hazard to hear singing, testimony and share fellowship over a chili supper cooked by church members and Perry County chapter member Jenny Williams.

gDSC_0543Consolidated Baptist Church pastor Rev. Lowell Parker of Wheelwright, Floyd County, served as emcee for the night, introducing the speakers, distinguished guests and even singing with the church choir. The program started with a rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Lexington singer Special K. The Consolidated Baptist Choir and visiting Rev. Jake Ravizee fueled the event with songs of praise and worship.  Evangelist Jake Ravizee has been an Ordained Minister-Evangelist and Vocalist for over 35 years. He lives in Lynch, Kentucky with his wife and three children. His years of service through prison ministries made him especially excited to be a part of this important event.

There was an impressive turnout both from local community members and from local elected officials. State Senator Brandon Smith, Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo and Commonwealth Attorney Teresa  Reed all attended the event. Judge Stumbo, who is seeking election to the state Supreme Court, spoke briefly about the meaning of democracy after Rev. Parker invited her up to the podium. Her vision of democracy included memories she had of being a child in Floyd County, watching her father tally votes off the radio during election nights, and watching the impressive campaign led by KFTC in the 1980s to stop the broad form deed.

gDSC_0429After Judge Stumbo spoke, Rev. Parker read KFTC’s vision statement to the audience. After reading the entire statement, he looked out across the audience and said, “That’s why we’re here. That’s what we’re working for.”

Lexington native Tayna Fogle was a featured speaker at the event.  Tayna has organized many Singing for Democracies throughout the state and she was excited to participate in the first one in Hazard. She spoke powerfully about her experience as a former felon seeking her voting rights and educated the audience about the reality for former felons who want to exercise their democratic rights. “You will not believe how many people in Kentucky have lost their right to vote” she said, “Over 243,000 people. That’s not in New York and New Jersey – that’s 243,000 people right here in Kentucky.”

She reminded the audience that many of those disenfranchised are no different than many of the people around the room. “They are grandmas like me. They don’t owe nobody – they pay taxes, work, raise their families and put their children to bed at night.”

gDSC_0488When Rev. Parker came back to the podium he shared, “You may not know this about me, but I’m just like Tayna.” He then spoke about his experience receiving a felony following personal economic problems and how many felons are just like everyone else – they have just hit a rough patch and try to get back on track after serving their time and paying their debt to society. He called on Senator Brandon Smith, as we have in the past, to take leadership this year in the Legislature and advocate for the passage of House Bill 70, a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their time and paid their debt to society.

After a final rousing set of gospel songs by Special K and Rev. Ravizee, participants got to know each other better in the downstairs church community room. The Consolidated Baptist Church provided numerous pots of chili, hot dogs, sandwiches and a huge array of desserts. KFTC member Jenny Williams made vegan chili – and it was delicious!

An incredible amount of excitement, goodwill and new friendships were generated by this event. Not only was there talk of a second east Kentucky ‘Singing for Democracy’, but KFTC and church members are already planning their trip to Frankfort in February for the next Voting Rights Lobby Day!

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