As the November election draws nearer, the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Houston and the Houston Defender Network have joined forces to encourage the community to exercise the highest civic privilege we have as citizens – voting.

An Early Voting Rally is set for Saturday, October 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Emancipation Park, 3018 Emancipation Ave., in the heart of Third Ward. Highlights include spoken word artists, other performers and fun for the entire family. The theme is “Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy,” and the timing is crucial – early voting is Oct. 24-Nov. 4.

The Oct. 22 rally, which is sponsored by Texas Children’s Hospital, has garnered a number of community partners: Black Women of Greater Houston PAC, City of Houston, Greater Houston Black Chamber, Houston Area Urban League, Houston Metropolitan Baptist Ministers Conference, Metro, NAACP Houston Branch, Texas Southern University Student Government Association, Top Ladies of Distinction, University of Houston Student Government Association and Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Social Justice Ministry.

Annie Johnson Benifield, president of LWV of Houston

Annie Johnson Benifield, president of LWV of Houston, said democracy is not a spectator sport where one simply sits in the arena and watches events take place, but rather a gladiator sport where you fight for what you believe in, such as voting rights, equality and justice.

“As a descendant of enslaved people, I am honored to serve as the first woman of color elected president of this 102-year-old organization,” Benifield said. “I am committed to the League’s mission of empowering voters through voter registration and voter education and defending democracy by advocating/fighting for voting rights.”

Michelle Riley Brown Texas Children’s Hospital Executive Vice President

She added that the League’s Voters Guide is now available on their website and its signature effort in the realm of voter education. “It provides nonpartisan, fact-based information in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese on a digital platform so citizens can make informed choices about who best represents them in the political arena.”

Texas Children’s Hospital Executive Vice President Michelle Riley-Brown stated, “Texas Children’s Hospital is proud to sponsor this event.  The right to vote is an incredible privilege that was hard-earned.  When we exercise our right to vote,  we honor not only our responsibility to ourselves, but to each other.”

Sonny Messiah Jiles, CEO of the Defender Network

Sonny Messiah Jiles, CEO of the Defender Network, said it is fitting that the rally is held at
Emancipation Park, which was purchased by former slaves 150 years ago and signifies power. “Voting is a privilege that we continue to fight for,” Messiah Jiles said. “We must unify to emphasize the power each of us has if we only take the time to vote. Despite past and present voter suppression tactics, we remain resilient. For 12 days, we have the opportunity to vote early at any polling location. That is the true meaning of “Power to the People.”