The Road to Freedom Avenue - The Activists
For These Citizens of Mims, The Moores’ Mission Is Not Finished
By Kirk Churchill and Job Critton
At first glance, Mims, Fla., appears to be a snapshot of a rural town most would drive by on their way up Florida’s Space Coast. Locals tend to describe this small section of north Brevard County as a “town that moves at a slow pace where nothing really changes.”
While this may be true, Mims is the resting place for two historical figures who gave their lives to the fight for racial equality: Harry and Harriette Moore.
For the Moores, the focus of their fight was for voting rights for Black people. While the couple was killed in 1951, some local activists say their work is far from finished.
William Gary, vice president of the North Brevard NAACP, Josephine Peterson Hunter, member of the NAACP, and Sofia Mazo, head of the Black Lives Matter Allyship in North Brevard, are embracing the Moores’ mission of voter mobilization.
“The mission of the NAACP is to eliminate racial discrimination in this country, and among those things includes police brutality,” Gary said. “As well as ensuring that all qualified persons can vote ... and so forth.”
In 1944, Harry Moore established the Progressive Voters League. Up until his death in 1951, he was able to register over 160,000 Black voters in Florida when voting as an African American had its consequences due to extreme racial prejudice at the time. Poll taxes, Whites-only primaries and more created roadblocks designed to keep Black people from voting.
“We need not fool ourselves and be so naive to think that because we've come to the 21st century, that everything is all right in that regard,” Gary said.
Mazo sees the Moores’ fight for voting rights as still relevant today.
“This is a fight that isn’t new, and especially as it pertains to Brevard. Unfortunately the reality of Brevard is they are not going to listen to you if you don’t look a certain way,” Mazo said.
Hunter added, “Regarding voter suppression now … we are seeing things backed up, we find ourselves out protesting and marching and trying and looking for the same things we were pushing for 57 years ago.”
In the 2020 election, the North Brevard NAACP’s biggest concern is mobilizing voters and ensuring every voter’s voice is heard, just as the Moores did. Keeping the people of Mims informed during the voting process is critical.
“We're using the state NAACP’s VAN system, which is the Voter Access Network, to call potential voters and remind them to go vote,” Gary said. “While using our media network, and other digital media to remind people to go and vote. Use a mail-in ballot there, or if you're afraid of mailing it, then take the ballot to the Supervisor of Elections' Office and put it in the box there.”
With the pandemic as well, advising voters about the details of voting by mail has also been of utmost importance.
Hunter said, “some people don’t realize when you send the mail-in ballot that once you seal it, you have to sign your name across the back, that’s how they make sure it has not been tampered with. If it is missing that signature it is omitted, and that vote does not count.”
While educating the public is imperative, strength in numbers is paramount as well.