Dozens came out to Bergfeld Park Sunday for an evening filled with faith and a focus on engaging people in the civic responsibility of voting.
New Life Community Church hosted the voter registration event titled, “We Are America: An Evening of Hope and Solidarity,” at the park with a mission of registering new voters and emphasizing the importance of the November election.
A total of 15 new voters were registered at the Sunday event, which was themed “Vote like your life depends on it.”
Reggie Jones, executive pastor at New Life Community Church, said it was a joy to see people come together for something positive.
“It was good to see people come out and more than anything worship and praise God together,” he said. “I want to see people have the civic responsibility. If nobody cares, one of the worst things we can have is apathy.”
While speaking on stage, he asked people ages 18 to 34 to exercise their right to vote and also get involved to become poll workers.
Rodney Curry, senior pastor at College Hill Missionary Baptist Church, told attendees the upcoming election is a monumental task before them.
“If you don’t vote, you simply think our voices don’t have power,” Curry said. “We’ve fought for too long for our voices to not have power.”
Curry also encouraged people to get involved in their local schools.
He asked people to help out the elderly people who might have trouble getting to the polls with transportation.
“Our elderly need you,” he said. “It’s imperative that we do this.”
Curry also said the high school seniors should be talking about the election and going to the polls if they’re eligible this year.
He noted how people around the country spoke out after the police-involved death of George Floyd earlier this year and how voting can lead to change.
“If you don’t want a repeat of that, you’ve got to get up,” Curry said. “However it happens, we’re going to do it together.”
Curry then closed his speech with the song, “Lean on Me.”
New Life Community Church Pastor Dr. V.M. Robertson asked local churches to take people to the polls after the Sunday services, while encouraging people to vote.
Karla Timms, elder of youth and children’s ministries at New Life Community Church, said people need to become informed about local officials and issues.
“Ignorance is no longer bliss. You cannot know things,” she said regarding knowing who local leaders are and what their duties entail.
Timms told the crowd that voter registration is even more important as the deadline to register in Texas is Oct. 5.
She announced that New Life Community will host drive-thru voter registration Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon.
“Your future is on the ballot,” Timms said. “So vote for your future.”
Timms then encouraged people to take precautions at the polls to not let COVID-19 stop them from voting.
“Thank you guys for coming out,” Timms said. “And vote like your life depends on it, because it does.”
Michael Tolbert, Smith County Democratic Party chair, spoke about the leaders that have been lost recently and the need for younger people to step up and fill their ranks.
These leaders include longtime Tyler-Smith County NAACP President Ernest Deckard, former Smith County Commissioner Andrew Melontree, Smith County Precinct 1 Constable Henry Jackson, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Julie Gobble, the Democratic candidate for Texas House District 6, also spoke about the need to vote in this upcoming election.
“Vote – we have to. It’s how we exert our force on hired elected officials,” Gobble said. “It is a matter of life and death this year. You have to have a say.”
Gobble is running against incumbent Matt Schaefer, who has been in office since 2013 and is seeking his fifth term.
Tyler City Councilman Broderick McGee encouraged people to vote in their local elections.
“The local elections are just as important as the national election,” McGee said.
McGee, who is running for another term as District 2 city councilman, said the council races will be at the bottom of the ballot in November. His opponent for the District 2 seat is Derrith Bondurant.
Nancy Carraway and Praise provided worship music for the crowd throughout the event.
New Life Community Church will also host a fall festival in October and a food drive in November, Jones said.