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'Do not celebrate, legislate': King family calls on lawmakers to pass voting rights protections

Yolanda Renee King
Posted at 3:20 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 15:41:21-05

The family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the national holiday that honors the renowned civil rights activist to call on lawmakers to pass new federal laws that would make it easier for people across the country to vote.

Martin Luther King III, speaking at the Deliver For Voting Rights Day of Action in Washington, D.C., said that "history will be watching" tomorrow when Senators vote on voting rights legislation.

"Black and brown Americans will be watching what happens tomorrow. In 50 years, students will read about what happens tomorrow and know whether our leaders had the integrity to do the right thing," he said, according to CNN.

Yolanda Renee King, the 13-year-old granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged lawmakers not just to remember her grandfather's legacy but to act on it.

"For all the elected leaders out there that are tweeting, posting, and celebrating my grandfather, Dr. King, today, my message to you is simple: Do not celebrate. Legislate," she said at a press conference Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s activism was instrumental in getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. That law prohibited racial discrimination in voting laws.

However, recent Supreme Court decisions have weakened some of the protections provided by that law. In addition, Republicans in several states have passed laws that make it more difficult to cast a vote — and analysts say those state laws will have a greater impact on communities of color.

The Senate is currently weighing a bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Accountability Act, that aims to eliminate racial discrimination in Congressional redistricting. The bill faces a Republican filibuster, but the White House has called on the Democrat-controlled Senate to change the rules to allow the bill to pass.

On Monday, Yolanda directly called out two moderate Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — both of whom have signaled their hesitation to change Senate rules.

"The Senate must do the right thing when this legislation comes to a vote tomorrow. Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, our future hinges on your decision and history will remember what choice you make," she said.

Yolanda's comments on Monday echoed those of Vice President Kamala Harris, who also used Martin Luther King Jr. Day to advocate for passing voting rights legislation.

In Atlanta, King's old congregation, the Ebeneezer Baptist Church, honored King with a program filled with speeches from local politicians and musical performances.