VALDOSTA -- Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, the second phase of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Voters Initiative Voters Awareness and Education Rally, commenced in the form of a Voters Registration Drive.

Five stations were manned in various high-traffic locations throughout the city in a concerted effort to help people realize their power in voting. Stations were at Southside Library, 527 Griffin Ave.; Wal-Mart Super Center, 3274 Inner Perimeter Road; Mr. B's Market, 1300 W. Hill Ave.; Stan's Quality Meats, 410 N. Oak Street; K-Mart, 1106 N. St. Augustine Rd. The drive was also co-sponsored by the Atlanta-based Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda (GCPA).

CGPA speaks to the importance of voting.

"The most important reason why I think we register to vote is for better schools," said

Tim Reed of GCPA. "We have children growing up under curriculum that may not meet our needs as African Americans ... if there are not enough African Americans on the board then we don't have any input into our education."

He said that same premise relates to every aspect of our lived including parks, streets and sewer. Getting people to understand that their vote affects them in so many ways is the challenge inherent in the mission of the registration drive.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery was also present early Saturday to spread words of wisdom to help kick-off the drive.

"You know I think its so easy to place responsibility on the leaders. We are all leaders," Lowery said. "You cast a shadow wherever you walk and you are responsible and accountable for that shadow that you cast."

He said everyone should answer, for themselves, questions such as what does your life inspire people to do and what kind of message are you sending. He added that the church is not only measured by the minister but the congregation as well. He said leaders are conversely inspired by the inspiration of people.

"Martin was a great fellow but what really inspired him in Montgomery was for the first time in our history 53,000 black folks all marched together," Lowery said. "And when 53,000 people decided to stay off that bus because one woman sat down so they could stand up, that was an inspiration to the world."

He said everyone in that time experienced the humiliation of being forced to pay bus fair and exit the bus, in the rain, to enter through the back. That humiliation inspired everyone to become a leader on that issue. He said he wants to challenge the religious leaders in Valdosta and Lowndes County to become leaders in the voting rights drive in the new millennium.

Leigh Touchton, local NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president also offered her perspectives on the importance of exercising our responsibility and obligation in making a choice to vote.

"If we would have had 500 more people go out and get their vote counted in Florida we would have a different president," Touchton said. "If we had s different president, women wouldn't be loosing the rights they are loosing ... the environment would be loosing the advances we have made in the last 50 years."

She also said the courts wouldn't be stacked with right-wing radicals, or a potential appointee who is responsible for murders with the CIA. Put simply she said if 500 more people would have tuned out to vote, there would be a different outcome.

A local woman, Beth Jarvis who registered to vote at the K-Mart location said there is definitely a problem young people voting.

"They think everything should be handed to them," Jarvis said. "And we raised them that way by fighting to make sure things are good for them now ... but today, this generation X, they don't have a cause."

She added that she made sure that all her children were registered to vote when they became of age and that she teaches them that is a responsibility they owe themselves. She said most young people don't think that politics affects them and that all the work was done in the 60's to bring about voters rights but the work remains undone.

During Saturday's drive

, more than 50 people were registered to vote.

To contact reporter T.S. Rose please call 244-3400 ext. 245

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