JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several “Souls to the Polls” events were held Sunday in Northeast Florida ahead of Election Day.
The Equal Ground Education Fund -- a Black-led nonpartisan, nonprofit working to build Black political power in Florida -- hosted a “Souls to the Polls” event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Legends Center on Soutel Drive in Jacksonville. That event was part of the Equal Ground Education Fund’s “Park & Praise” campaign, funded in part by Tyler Perry. The purpose of the campaign is to fight voter disenfranchisement in Florida.
“Souls to the Polls Sunday is an opportunity for our faith community to celebrate their faith but also to engage in a civil manner,” said event organizer Siottis Jackson. “Right now, most churches are doing virtual or in-person. They are doing a passage or message around civic engagement and then those pastors will caravan here to this event, and we will have live performances going on. Some of those churches will go directly to the precinct, depending on how long the line is, but they’ll come to the Legends. We will mingle here, eat, and throughout the day, they will go and vote here at the Legends Center.”
Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Reginald Gundy was one of the faith leaders who participated.
“That’s what we are really trying to do and encourage people that your voice has to be heard at the polls, regardless of who they vote for, but they need to let their voice be heard,” Gundy said.
The statewide effort is targeting over 250,000 Black voters across 25 counties, including Duval, leading up to Election Day.
“I just think everybody should get out and vote because I think this is the right thing to do. It is our right as citizens. The time that we are in right now, we all need change, and I think that’s just the best way, and we all need to come together and make things happen,” said one participant, who did not wish to be identified. “I hope it brings awareness to not only voting but also equal rights of everybody else and we can all just hopefully come together. So hopefully me putting out the gospel and showing the gift that God gave me, we will connect and all come together.”
Faith in Florida is also holding a series of 80 events across the state this weekend, as well as next weekend, with the support of 800 churches. It’s part of Faith in Action, a national organization that describes itself as being nonpartisan and not aligning with any candidate or political party.
Faith in Florida said that at the events, participants will be able to talk about their plans on voting, how and where to vote, and voter suppression.
Some events will cater to young voters ages 18 to 28, as well as millennials.
“Because of COVID we’ve had to do our important work of educating and empowering voters differently this year, and most often virtually, but are determined to ensure the voices of our communities are heard at the ballot box this year," said the executive director of Faith in Florida.
In Jacksonville, a “Souls to the Polls” event took place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday in Rutgers Plaza on Dunn Avenue.
Another “Souls to the Polls” event was held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Solomon Calhoun Community Center on Duval Street in St. Johns County.