top of page

Souls to the Polls encourages Black voters to cast their ballots early

Nine days before the Nov. 3 general election, Black voters in Jacksonville were urged at a Souls to the Polls gathering to cast their ballots early then stay involved in the community.

The Rev. R.L. Gundy, the senior pastor at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, was among the church leaders at the nonpartisan Souls to the Polls event Sunday adjacent to the Legends Community Center, one of 20 Duval County early voting sites.

"What we're doing is trying to encourage people to break the shackles of a people who are being suppressed from voting, take the shackles of the people who are disenfranchised and take the shackles off the people who are being discouraged and depressed about COVID-19 but still trying to vote," Gundy said.

Churches, which continue holding virtual services because of the pandemic, have been encouraging their congregation members to vote early, he said.

In addition, volunteers have been going door-to-door talking to residents and encouraging them to vote, he said.

"We're trying to get people to vote early now because we don't want to see people get bottle-necked and backed up at the polls when they go vote Nov. 3," said Gundy, who's also involved with the My Vote Project, a nonpartisan voter education program.

He also said they are focusing on inspiring young people to vote. The entertainment Sunday afternoon included various rappers "who've come with something positive to say,"

Co-hosted by the Equal Ground Education Fund, the day-long gathering featured food trucks that provided free lunches to voters, poll workers, and those who attended the event.

Voters had an opportunity from the comfort of their parked cars to hear gospel choirs, positive rap music, and remarks from church leaders, community advocates, and elected officials.

In observance of election polling place regulations, the event took place in Lonnie Miller Park adjacent to the Legends Center.

The Equal Ground Education Fund describes itself as "a preeminent Black-led non-partisan, nonprofit organization working on building Black political power in Florida."

The Legends Center event was part of the organization's 25-county statewide Souls to the Polls effort.

After casting her ballot, one voter stood in the shade of trees separating the polling place and park to listen to the rap music that filled the air.

"It's not my kind of music. I'm too old but if it can get young people to get involved in the community to do good and vote, then I'm all for it," she said but declined to give her name.

Three food trucks — Ambitious Eats, Dagwood's Grilled Burgers & Dogs and The Empowered Kitchen — fed those at the event for free.

"I am here to promote change. To allow voices to be heard and allow the community I grew up in, for us to make a change in this year's election," said Tierra "Chef Fefe" Jackson of Ambitious Eats. Jackson, 28, also is a personal chef to several NFL players including former Jaguars player Leonard Fournette,

Jackson said her generation is old enough to make their own decisions and they are overdue to promote the change they want to see in the community.

The Legends Center event coincided with an unrelated, Biden for President Florida campaign event — also named Souls to the Polls — led by Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson.

The Biden-Harris campaign gathering on behalf of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris was at Highlands Regional Library, which also is an early voting site. It was among a series of Biden-Harris campaign gatherings statewide during the weekend.

Gundy said people have become more engaged than in past elections.

"People are much more engaged. They are motivated to come out and vote," he said.

Young people, he said can change the world, which is why he and others are emphasizing that they vote.

"This is to motivate young people to see that their voice does count, that they can change the world. …And they are responding," Gundy said.


bottom of page