Candidate forum message: “Vote, or lose your right to complain about the world’s circumstances.”

On Saturday afternoon, at the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club on the north side of town, the Kappa Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority hosted a Bloomington municipal candidate forum.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is one of the Divine Nine—that’s the nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which is an umbrella council composed of historically Black fraternities and sororities.

Invited to deliver remarks to kick off the forum were Jeanetta and Charlie Nelms. The couple, who have been married for 54 years, issued a clarion call to an audience of around 60 people: Vote in the May 2 primary.

Jeannetta Nelms was director of the Indiana University 21st Century Scholars Program in the mid-2000s. Charlie Nelms served as professor of higher education administration at IU and in several top posts, including vice president for institutional development and student affairs.

The B Square will report out separately on what the candidates had to say.

Here’s how the Nelmses made their pitch to participate in the upcoming elections.

Jeannette Nelms:

These are some of the questions I want you to pose to yourself as we approach this election season.

Number One: Why do I vote? Or why do I not vote?

Number Two: How familiar am I with the criteria for voting in this upcoming primary election?

Number Three: How well do I know each candidate and their platform?

Number Four: Will I hold candidates responsible for their campaign promises?

Number Five: What steps will I take to assist and make sure that others vote?

I hope you can provide answers to all five of these questions before the primary election. Now, here are some of the reasons I vote. It took many years of marching, protesting, fighting for all of us to have the right to vote. Therefore, we dare not not vote.

I vote for the next generation. Decisions made today impact children, grandchildren, and all generations that follow. Our voice is your voice. And not voting is giving someone else your voice. Voting is a chance to stand up for all of the issues that you care about.

Vote, or lose your right to complain about the world’s circumstances. If you don’t vote, other people get to choose who represents you.

As I remember, Congressman John Lewis, always saying: The vote is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society. So let’s all vote.

Charlie Nelms:

I just want to add a couple of things. Number one—so Jeanette and I are both from the Arkansas Delta. So we grew up in an era when our parents could not vote—well, they had to pay a poll tax. And I know you don’t live with it now. But when you go home, Google “poll tax” … [You had] threats against you for even casting a vote, even signing up to vote, registering to vote.

It was a dangerous kind of business. So we cannot afford now, to sort of get there and say: Well, we’re not going to vote.

I want to ask you a question: If voting wasn’t important, why are state legislators all over the country passing legislation, saying making it more difficult for you to vote? Why do candidates spend so much money trying to convince you to vote for them, if voting wasn’t important?

Someone once said: If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu. So the idea is to be at the table, so you can express your own point of view and not having to worry about anyone else.

I just want to thank all of the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities for all that you do everyday, not just in this election season, to make our community a better place, I want to say thanks to all the people who chose to run for election. And it’s not a small thing.

And I know we get all excited about Mr. Trump and all of these other people, the most important election, y’all, is the local election: Who gets elected to city council, the county council, the mayoral position, and the state legislature. That’s where the action is. And if we pass up the opportunity to exercise our right to vote, we give up our right to vote. End of conversation.

Thank you. Go vote!

The last day to register to vote in the May 2, 2023 municipal primaries in Indiana is April 3.

In-person early voting starts on April 4 at the election operations building at 3rd and Walnut streets (former NAPA building).

The  secretary of state’s website has information on how to register to vote and  how to apply to vote absentee by mail.

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