In 49 Years, Some (But Not Enough) Progress

Today marks the 49th anniversary of the passage of a monumental law which forever changed our democracy. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 set the stage for fundamental shifts to our political landscape, paving the way for new opportunities of engagement from Americans who had not had the freedom or the power to participate in our democracy with their votes. While some argue that the issues addressed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were long ago resolved, for the communities of South Florida, the law still plays a prominent role in our lives.

Just a few weeks ago I was joined by Reverend Alphonso Jackson Sr. in Washington. For those who do not know, Rev. Jackson has been a pillar of Richmond Heights for over 30 years, serving the community by leading the congregation of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond Heights and a leader in our local chapter of the NAACP. Reverend Jackson serves a community where the protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are extremely valued. The law made certain that legislatures could not bar individuals from fully participating in the political process. It helped break down barriers that otherwise would have excluded many Americans on the basis of race and economic status.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which have been heralded as one of the crowing achievements of the civil rights movement. While much has changed, many of our communities still face significant barriers to fully participating in the political process. My district is incredibly diverse. It is home to a multitude of ethnic minorities, making up what I believe is a perfect blend of cultures -- a blend that makes our country so great. We must protect and preserve these voices and votes, so that they can help create opportunity for all in South Florida.

While we all recognize that the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important historic steps in our country's pursuit of social justice, there is still more work to be done. Our struggle to ensure equal rights and fulfill the promise of the American Dream is ongoing -- and I firmly believe that passing comprehensive immigration reform is an important step forward in realizing the promise of our nation. This is a day to both celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Voting Rights Act, as well as to renew our commitment to fighting for true equality for all.