Clergy, volunteers get out the vote

By GALEN HOLLEY / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A coalition of black ministers and volunteers hit the streets Monday to encourage Tupelo residents to vote next month.
In the chill of the morning, some 15 eager canvassers gathered in Hancock Park in south-central Tupelo before breaking into two-person teams and knocking on doors.
“We’re not stumping for anybody. We’re just encouraging folks to get out and to exercise their right to vote,” said the Rev. Charles Penson, co-pastor of Lane Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Tupelo and one of the event organizers.
Deborah Funches, a campaign volunteer for U.S. Rep. Travis Childers’ campaign, spoke with members of the group as they prepared to disperse, but she stressed her role was unofficial and she didn’t give any instructions.
Childers, the Democratic incumbent, is being challenged by Republican Alan Nunnelee and several other minor-party and independent candidates.
Penson was joined by fellow Tupelo clergy members Bishop Clarence Parks of Temple of Compassion and Deliverance, the Rev. Gerald Patterson of Words of Faith Ministries and the Rev. Gloria McKinney of St. Paul United Methodist Church, and by the Rev. Larry Goodine of New Hope Baptist Church in Booneville.
The group fanned out into the nearby neighborhoods carrying fliers that instructed people what ward they were in and where their voting precinct would be.
Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District is one of several that political analysts have identified as being particularly important during the upcoming mid-term elections. Specifically, they say, the black vote could make a big difference.
Most of the households the volunteers visited Monday were black. Hancock Park is located in Tupelo’s 7th Ward, but volunteers visited parts of Wards 2 and 3 as well.
At the Hilldale Apartments on Monument Drive, Gwendolyn Springer, a young black woman, said she appreciated the volunteers’ visit and that she planned to vote with enthusiasm.
Down the street, Nancy Gilliam and Kametrice Usher said they were concerned about the economy.
“There just aren’t any jobs out here,” said Gilliam, who’s been out of work for a year.
In the early afternoon the ministers and volunteers shifted their canvassing efforts to Ward 4. Goodine estimated that by day’s end, he and his fellow volunteers would have knocked on at least 500 doors.
“We just want people to exercise their rights,” he said. “Voting is an important right, and we want our brothers and sisters to get out and do it.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.