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Souls To The Polls Event Urges African-Americans To Vote

Quincy Walters/WUSF News
A praise dance team performs in Williams Park.

Souls to the Polls is a Democratic effort across the country to get voters who attend African-American churches to vote. 

On Sunday, several St. Petersburg churches participated. 

At the end of a service at Greater Mt. Zion AME Church, Pastor Clarence Williams offered a blessing before sending more than a dozen church members to a rally at Williams Park. 

Credit Quincy Walters / WSUF News
Pastor Clarence Williams of Greater Mt. Zion AME Church offers a benediction, praying for the candidates and the nation.

"Oh God, bless the candidates, bless our nation," he said. "Bless those that serve and, oh God, help us remember that all of us serve you."

Greater Mt. Zion choir members joined Democratic candidates and others at the rally attended by a few hundred people. 

Diedra Wright, a choir member, said she's glad to participate in a tradition with roots in Sunday protests during the civil rights movement. 

"We just had too many before us, go on, fought, you know, suffered to get this right for us," she said. "I think we oughta show some obedience and go out and cast our vote." 

David Jolly, the Republican incumbent for Florida's 13th congressional district was there. He said that the Souls to the Polls event is important, because getting African-Americans out to vote ensures democracy. 

"The more people participate, the better nation we are," he said. "And the more representative of a government we have."

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is looking to upset Jolly's congressional seat, was also there. He spoke to the crowd, relying on cultural references to boost his appeal. 

Credit Quincy Walters / WSUF News
Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist poses with children at the event.

"We need to stand up and be heard and we need to make sure the right things happen," Crist said. "'Do the Right Thing'. Spike Lee. God bless you. Let's go vote."

During the rally, about 50 people marched a few blocks away to the Supervisor of Elections office, which was open for early voting. 

Ollie Troupe, who's a member of a Seventh-Day Adventist congregation in St. Petersburg, said it doesn't matter who you vote for. He's just grateful he can vote. 

"At one time we didn't have the opportunity to vote, now we have the opportunity to vote," he said while walking over to the Supervisor of Elections office. "I think everybody should get out and vote today." 

Troupe and the other voters returned to the rally where performers were still entertaining the crowd. 

With Florida's race for the presidency so close, the Democratic organizers were relentless, saying friends and neighbors who haven't voted have one more chance - on election day. 

Quincy J. Walters is a junior at USF, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. His interest in journalism spurred from the desire to convey compelling narratives. He has written for USF’s student paper, The Oracle and is currently the videographer for Creative Pinellas. If he’s not listening to NPR, he’s probably listening to Randy Newman.
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