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Voting rights talk set for MLK Day in Fredericksburg
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Voting rights talk set for MLK Day in Fredericksburg

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Mo Petway (copy)

Moe Petway, photographed at Salem Church branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Spotsylvania, Virginia on Oct. 8, 2019.

A group of local activists plan to hold a “Conversation on the Bridge” in Fredericksburg on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Rev. Mozett Petway, who heads the Spotsylvania County chapter of the NAACP, said a group of local leaders wanted to gather on the holiday to talk about voting rights, which he and many others believe is under attack.

The gathering will start at 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge on Fall Hill Avenue in Fredericksburg. Petway encouraged people to attend the event live but added that the event will be livestreamed on the Spotsylvania NAACP branch Facebook page.

“It’s not a march, not a protest. It’s a conversation at the bridge,” said Petway, adding that the aim of the gathering is to remember what King did for voting rights while also focusing on the need to improve and protect those rights.

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to protect against racial discrimination in voting. However, the Brennan Center for Justice says two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, “along with a wave of restrictive voting legislation” last year have put voting rights “under threat.”

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The center supports the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has passed the House and needs the Senate to pass it for the act to become law.

Local leaders, including pastor Gary Holland of Stafford County, former 28th District Del. Joshua Cole and former Fredericksburg City Council member Rev. Hashmel Turner will speak during the event.

Petway said another group he helps run, the Concerned Citizens of Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg Area, is hosting the event.

Meanwhile, the Caroline County Branch of the NAACP will mark the King holiday by hosting a virtual forum discussing the church and social justice issues on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The forum will be livestreamed on the Caroline NAACP Facebook page.

President Lydell Fortune said the Caroline branch has long sought to establish a relationship with clergy in the county. His hope is that clergy will become more active on social justice issues.

“We thought of this as a way to commemorate Dr. King as a member of the clergy,” Fortune said. “We thought it would be good to come together as an NAACP family with clergy in Caroline just to discuss the theological underpinnings of social justice and have that conversation.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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