Acceptance of Spirit of Democracy Award from National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Me with award

I would like to thank Melanie Campbell and the board members of NCBCP for this award. I would also like to congratulate the other recipients for their achievements. I want to thank my nephew, Dr. Ivory Toldson and his wife, Marshella for sharing this evening with me. I would also like to thank my friends Joan Farrelly and Barbara Santos for joining me and to my friend Rhonda Glover who could not be here, but provided tickets for two Howard University students to attend. I am pleased to have some of my former staff members from CBCF and so many of my sisters from the Black Women’s Roundtable.

This award is given to persons who support the NCBCP mission and vision of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition. Civic participation was ingrained into me by parents who were denied that basic civil duty, the right to vote. I watched them being denied that basic right even though they were born in this country and paid taxes in this country. They could pass the literacy test and could meet all the other qualifications, except they could not pass the voter identification test. For the younger persons in the audience, the voter identification requirement was not a photo ID. It was an in-person identification by two registered voters (and all the registered voters were white). They could not find two good white people to verify that they were who their driver’s licenses said they were.

As a child, I helped people who could hardly read and write, people who worked a full day in the cotton fields but cleaned up and came out at night, learn how to complete a voter registration card with no errors. We taught them how to pass a literacy test that was designed at the college level and above. I watched crosses burn near my home and answered threatening phone calls with people on the other end saying that they would rape my mother and kill my father. I heard the shots rang out in the night when night-riders filled a barrel of bullets into my father’s car in an attempt to kill him and my other family members. I witnessed my parents take the NAACP underground when the state of Louisiana outlawed the organization.

If you ask me where my commitment to civic engagement came from, I will tell you that I inherited from Rev. John Henry and Mrs. Alease J. Scott. It is in my DNA. Civic participation is indeed a cultural responsibility and a tradition in my family, and I am trying to pass it on to the next generation. Thank you for this award.

Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D.

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