Alicia Keys, Jesse Jackson urge blacks, young people to vote early

rchristensen@newsobserver.comOctober 27, 2012 

Making a direct appeal to blacks and young voters, Grammy-award winning artist Alicia Keys and the Rev. Jesse Jackson held large rallies Friday in the Triangle to urge people to vote early and to vote for President Barack Obama.

“We need to think back to the times when us as a people never even had an opportunity to vote,” Keys told 1,000 people at an event in Chavis Park, near a traditionally black neighborhood in Raleigh. “We have this opportunity now and it’s more than our duty to make sure we are pushing the country forward.”

Jackson hit a similar theme in visits to Durham and Chapel Hill, asking young voters to block efforts to roll back generations of progress. He portrayed opponents, without naming them, as historical opponents of the New South, including the emerging role of blacks, women and labor.

“This is not just a tea party,” Jackson told several hundred students at N.C. Central University, referring to his opponents. “This is the Fort Sumter Tea Party,” he concluded, a reference to the Confederate forces that attacked the Union-held fort in Charleston’s harbor at the start of the Civil War. The message resonated with African-American supporters, a key constituency in the Obama campaign’s efforts in North Carolina to defeat Republican Mitt Romney.

Three polls released late this week showed the presidential race is a dead heat in North Carolina. One poll released Friday from the Democratic-leading Project New America put Obama ahead 47 percent to 43 percent, within the survey’s margin-of-error. Another poll Friday, from the conservative Civitas Institute, gave Romney a one-point lead at 48 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.

The appearances by Keys and Jackson are part of an extensive effort to mobilize Democratic voters this weekend. Signer LeToya Luckett, formerly with Destiny’s Child, and comedian Kevin Hart will attend separate Obama campaign events Saturday in Durham. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden will stump in the western part of the state Sunday.

Republicans also expect to reach out to voters this week, knocking on doors and making calls to get supporters to the polls.

Outside the polling location in Chavis Park, most Obama supporters said the president needs more time to undo the entanglements he inherited from Republicans.

“The stuff he’s been talking about, I believe in,” said Shaniqua Jolly, a 24-year-old nursing assistant. “The stuff Romney is saying is just not believable.”

“I don’t think he’s had enough time yet,” added Yolanda Random, a 53-year-old Raleigh resident who had just voted.

At N.C. Central University, Jackson led several hundred students on a block-long march to an early-voting polling location at the student union.

He was accompanied by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson; state NAACP President William Barber and about a dozen members of the state’s legislative black caucus, who had invited the veteran civil rights leader to North Carolina.

Jackson said the visit was a homecoming, noting his days as student body president and quarterback at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. He talked about attending a student government conference in Raleigh and not being able to stay at the segregated Carolina Hotel. Students from the black schools had to stay at Shaw University, private homes or sleep in their cars, he said.

The end of segregation – accomplished by black protests – ended what he called “the cotton curtain and the tobacco curtain.”

But he warned students that those gains were only made possible by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He said those hard-earned voting rights are now being challenged everywhere by the political right.

Jackson praised the state’s black lawmakers for their efforts to block a bill requiring a photo identification card at the polls – a bill the legislature’s Republican-majority approved but Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed.

“Democracy was not born in Philadelphia and signed by Jefferson,” Jackson said. “It was born in Selma and signed by Lyndon Johnson. But these (voter restriction) schemes undermine the vote.”

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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