By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
Seventeen churches in Daytona Beach's black community brought out hundreds of people to vote on Sunday.
The "Souls To The Polls" event started with a rally at the Courthouse Annex on Orange Avenue followed by a march to Daytona Beach Regional Library to vote about a few hundred yards away shortly after.
The library is the early voting site for Volusia County. Early voting is scheduled to run through Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The Rev. Dr. L. Ronald Durham, pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church at 539 George W. Engram Blvd. organized the event.
"We are here to vote. In the critical nature of this election, it is critical that we vote. Our ancestors caught hell just to cast a ballot," Rev. Durham said.
Rev. Durham teamed up with other ministers in the Daytona Black Clergy Alliance to make the event a reality.
"We thought in a meaningful way to gather all the congregations that would participate with us," he said. "We wanted to use a mass gathering to show that the African American community is galvanized and has a purpose to make sure that there is fairness in the election process as well as to exercise our rights as citizens to move our nation forward."
Another purpose of the event was to take advantage of the early voting period.
"Early voting allows those who have difficulty getting to the polls during the week because of job schedules, children and other inconveniences to get out and exercise their right to vote," Rev. Durham said.
Another goal was to address the voter's infringements that have been taking place across the state and nation.
"When the one percent can't get what they want, they resort to such tactics as voter suppression," Rev. Durham said. "They do anything that would delay, circumvent or get in the way of the progress; especially during presidential elections. We expected it. We have been able to educate and not focus on the negatives but the positives."
The organizers of the event were pleased with the turnout.
"We have here the ones that committed. We got calls from many others offering their support. We knew that we couldn't get all of the churches. We thought that Sunday was the best day in terms of numbers since we had our congregations in front of us. Also most people are off from work. Our goal was to get 300 people," Rev. Durham said.
Many of the residents who took part also felt it their civic duty along with a sense of pride to take part in the event.
Chris Green said, "It's important that we vote for our families, our children and our elders. There are so many that died for our right to vote. So to be a part of such an event is huge."
"I came out for my children. Voting affects their future. We need change not only in this country but here in this county and city as well," said Tamika Roland.
Bethune-Cookman University students held a similar march and rally on Monday with the same intent to get voters out to the polls.