Voting Day Transcript

A note about this transcript: The Moth is true stories told live. We provide transcripts to make all of our stories keyword searchable and accessible to the hearing impaired, but highly recommend listening to the audio to hear the full breadth of the story. This transcript was computer-generated and subsequently corrected through The Moth StoryScribe.

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I grew up in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is a beautiful city. When I go home to visit, my mama and me always have a ritual, a tea ritual. Well, my mama was in the kitchen getting the tea ready and I went into the bathroom to freshen up. When I walked into the bathroom, I looked, and something was so different. On the medicine cabinet there were all of these stickers in the shape of peaches that said, "I voted." Twenty-six stickers around the mirror. I called out, “Mama? Mama! Why do you have these peach stickers around the medicine cabinet? Is that your new hobby?”

She didn't answer. By this time, I was in the kitchen and she was looking out of the window. And when she turned I knew I had hit a nerve. You know the kinda look that your mama give you, that you know that you're in deep trouble? She looked at me and she said, "No, that's not a hobby. Those stickers mean so much to me. They are very special."

Ooh... “Mama, but why are those stickers so special?”

She said, "Because every time I go to vote they pass out the stickers now, and I'm not like some of the other people who throw their stickers away. I have saved all of my stickers. So I said I will place them around the mirror, on the medicine cabinet, because every time I go into the bathroom to freshen up or get myself ready for that day, I thank God that I can vote. I can remember when I could not vote."

Well, when she said that it made me feel kinda bad because I was really teasing her about the stickers. And I kinda dropped my head. I said, "Yeah... " [laughing]

She said, “Special."

My mama and daddy had a hard time voting. They were property owners. They owned a house and they were qualified to vote under the poll tax law but that wasn't a guarantee because you had to pass a test. My parents went down to the courthouse, but they did not pass the test, although they were very smart. In Georgia they had a literacy test and if you could not pass the literacy test with all of the trick questions, you could not vote. Some of the questions were so hard only a lawyer could answer them. Also, questions like, “How many jelly beans are in this jar? How many bubbles was in this bar of soap?”

My daddy was upset because he didn't pass the test the first time. He was in the barbershop and he heard that Mr. W.W. Law was going to have a class and W. W. Law was the head of the NAACP. And my mama and daddy signed up for the course. They went to every session. And they learned. Mr. Law told them, "We're going down to the courthouse, and we're going to take the test. But we're not going in as a group, we're going in two by two.”

Well, everyone in that class passed the test. (However, they never did learn how many bubbles were in a bar of soap!)

My mama and daddy one morning got up and they said, “We are going to vote. We'll be back in a few minutes.” They went down to St. Thomas Church in their green Chevrolet and they waited on line. And when they went to the desk the woman looked in the book, and she says, “I don't see your name in the book. Where did your move from?”

“We moved from the east side.” 

“Well maybe you have to go back to Paulsen Street School and see if your name is over there, because it's not here.”

And they drove to the east side. This happened all day. Now mind you, they left home about nine o'clock that morning. They went back

and forth, back and forth. A man came up to them and said, "I have been watching, and I am a poll watcher from the national headquarters of the NAACP Defense League. You go back to St. Thomas Church and let's see what happens."

Sure enough they did. This was late in the afternoon. That man was a way-show- er, just like W.W. Law was a way-show-er to help my people. When they got to St. Thomas Church, to the same desk with the same woman and she looked and she said, "Oh, I musta overlooked, here your name is right here in the book."

And they were able to vote on a paper ballot. When they got home, it was like six o’clock in the afternoon. We were so glad to see them because they had been gone all day. My parents were building a legacy, a voting legacy for me.

When I graduated from college, I was coming to New York and my parents said to me, "When you get to New York you make sure you register to vote because that is not a gift, that is your right."

I have voted in school board elections, city elections, state elections, and national elections. But the biggest one of all was the election of 2008. But, I had an obstacle, just like my parents had an obstacle. At that time, my husband of 52 years was sick. He had Parkinson's. Now, I knew I wanted to vote and I suggested to Cleve, "Cleve you know, maybe you could vote absentee ballot?."

And he looked at me. He said, "No I'm not going to vote no absentee ballot. I'm going to the poll, to the site, with my cane. An I'm a walk in and I'm going to vote!"

Well, that closed that down. [laughter and clapping]

The day of the election we got dressed, and I said, "Would you like to take the wheelchair, just in case?"

"No, I'm goin' use my cane, and I'm going to the poll." "Fine." We got in the car and we drove to the site. Everything was fine. We walked into

the building. We got in the auditorium and there he froze. He could not move. And I'm saying to myself, what am I going to do? Because he could stand like that five minutes, ten, fifteen, twenty until he was able to move.

As I'm standing there, he's standing there, these two young, strong, black young men came over and they said, “Pops, you havin' trouble here?”

He said, "Yeah, mmhm." They said, “What's the matter?” He says, "I have Parkinson's. I have Parkinson's like Muhammad Ali and Michael

J. Fox, and this is what happens. My body closed down, I can't move." And they started to whisper. They said, "We gotcha." They picked my husband up and they took him into the cafeteria to the desk

where the woman was sitting, the clerk. He tried to write his name and his name did not match the signature in the book. So I asked her, "Could I please initial it?" And she said yes. That was another way-show-er. Those young men picked him up, took him over to the machine, and placed him there. And he was able to pull the lever, stayed in, opened it and looked at me.

“Honey, I voted.”

Then I went in and I voted. That was a wonderful moment. Those young men picked my husband up, took him to the car and wanted to know, “Were we going to be alright?” That was another way-show-er.

That night we sat up and we listened to the results, and it was just awesome. And when they said that Barack Obama had won, my neighbors, my block went up. People were out in the street signing and clapping. And we went out on the porch and we stood there, and then the phone started to ring. Calls from Detroit, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina. But the biggest one of all, when I picked up the phone from Savannah, Georgia, and it was my 89-year-old mother, crying, "I lived to see the first black president of these United States [applause]."

I was crying and she was crying. She says, "Remember, voting is not a gift. It's a right." That was a legacy that she gave to me, and I'm passing it on to my

granddaughters. Now, I am saving my stickers that they give that say, "NYC I Voted" with the Statue of Liberty on it.