Presidential candidates don’t often go to soup kitchens to meet perspective voters, but even the most underserved of us have that right. That is why Reverend Aaron McCarthy and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) have made it their mission to give them a voice and get them registered to vote.
They are not just going into soup kitchens to search for non-voters, but also into homeless shelters – anywhere there are people who are not well off economically. It’s no secret that the lower you are on the economic food chain, the less you feel that you have a say. If you have no say, why vote?
That is what McCarthy wants to change. He wants to put the wheel of change into the hands of those who need it most. With Detroit as one of the poorest cities in the country, it is not surprising there are many disillusioned people who have never voted.
As of the time this is written, McCarthy has registered around 200 voters. These include not only those who fit the stereotype of those on the edge of society, but also kids only a few years out of high school who never even thought of voting.
“Each and every person in Detroit and the state of Michigan needs to vote,” says McCarthy. “Things need to change. There is an urgent need for change. Without everyone it won’t, it can’t.”
Detroit’s SCLC branch, with McCarthy going to all the places himself, actually started doing this before the organization adopted it as a whole. In essence, Detroit acted as a guinea pig for the larger organization.
While registering people to vote is the most important part, it is much more than that. The goal is do something about the poverty in Detroit, the most impoverished major city in America with 39.3 percent living below a poverty line of $24,008 for a family of four, according to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report.
Since he started this, McCarthy as gone to town halls and meetings of politicians of all stripes and asking what they are going to do about all the poverty in the city.
Over time he became an expected figure at these meetings. At first there was the usual political talk, but local politicians have grown to have more to say on the subject when McCarthy is around.
The drive to change things in the city, state, and country is the fuel for McCarthy, who makes no points of who you should vote for come Election Day. In an era where everyone who even mentions voting seems to want to tell you who you should vote for, McCarthy avoids that.
He says everyone should go to the polls and push change since he sees so many problems that need resolving. McCarthy says he doesn’t care if a voter votes Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, or whatever, just as long as you believe the person you are voting for can fix things.
The SCLC does not stop at voter registration. It also helps get those without transportation to the polls. The group started this with the primary earlier this year and had full participation from those they helped get registered.
McCarthy’s mission is part of the resurrection of Poor People Campaign, conceived by Martin Luther King Jr. to raise the quality of life for the nation’s impoverished of all ethnic backgrounds. He rolled it out to out to the SCLC in 1967. The plan came when King saw the horrifying images caused by poverty in Quitman County, Mississippi. It was the only time he cried publicly in his adult life.
A march was planned in Washington, DC, for in the spring of 1968. King assassinated just weeks before it was to take place.
No matter how you view this – a legacy fulfilled, a push for change, an attempt to engage those who feel mute in a world of political big talk, or anything else – one thing is for certain. This are people trying to get their government to listen. We are, after all, a republic realized and created for all.
Detroit, with Rev. McCarthy’s as a guiding force, has begun to steer the country to make sure everyone gets a vote. Here in Detroit everyone from those who live in mansions in Boston-Edison to the 39.3% under the poverty line need to have a say in just what change they want.
To register to vote go to https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us/MVIC/. The deadline to register is October 11.