By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – “Souls to the polls.” It’s the phrase Mary McLymore used to describe Sunday’s impressive church parishioner homage to the Newburgh Activity Center Sunday afternoon.
The Coordinator of General Elections in Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor, McLymore could not have been happier with the hugely successful “Caravan to the Polls” event, spearheaded by the Christian Ministerial Fellowship and included the coordinated transport efforts of six pastors bringing members from City of Newburgh Churches to the voting site.
Making the occasion more memorable, was its historic significance: For the first time in New York State voters were provided with the weekend voting option.
“This weekend has been wonderful; the Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh orchestrated uniting the community to come out and vote,” said McLymore. “This was especially true for those who wouldn’t have normally voted for various reasons, including transportation and even fear; however, all of us really coming together helped overcome all that.”
The 20-30 vehicle caravan picked up people in the City of Newburgh, beginning at a church on lower Broadway and proceeding up the street to another church and continuing to stop at the corner of Prospect Street gathering up more voters at two churches before dropping them off at the Activity Center. The excitement grew as they entered the polling site, feeling empowered to make their voices heard.
“Today is historic, as it’s all about us coming together as a group of people on common grounds to improve this beautiful City of Newburgh,” said a woman who only wanted to be identified as Patricia, a lifelong resident of the City of Newburgh. “It’s also a day to realize the wealth here that includes first and foremost our children and the opportunity that it affords them for us as a whole to realize dreams do come true.”
Some of those youth could be spotted at the Activity Center Sunday afternoon. Observing their relatives exercising their right to vote, the children were carefully observing their surroundings as well as the passions of those entering the booths.
“Don’t talk about it, be about it,” affirmed Rikki Pearson from the Town of Newburgh as she awaited her turn to enter the voting poll. “We want change, and in order for it to come, we need to put our words to action; this caravan is awesome, helping us show unity and strength.”
It’s that very sense of togetherness, spirituality and power that Newburgh’s churches traditionally have had a special ability to create, especially among the predominantly African-American community in Newburgh. With communities of color blaringly underrepresented at all levels of government, gaps remain in government policies. However, Sunday’s spark, inciting many who might not have otherwise voted, was a promising sign and a gateway toward the goal of getting every African-American church member to turn out on Election Day.
“The people really rallied together today despite the rain which is usually a big deterrent to coming out to vote,” said a pleased Bishop Jeffrey C. Woody of the Cathedral at the House, one of six churches involved in the Caravan. “To see the excitement on the faces of the voters was really wonderful, especially knowing for some it was the very first time they voted.”