By the Power of Our Vote

Last week in the KSleg things moved quickly, but the weather froze any real movement on bills in committees. However, there are several we are watching closely, including:

HB 2492 -- Introduced in the House and referred to the Committee on Health & Human Services, the bill would impose a near-complete ban on abortion except "when necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency." In addition, the bill would make illegal the sale of abortion medication, create a civil penalty up to $10,000 per instance for any person, including a physician, who knowingly assists a pregnant individual obtain abortion care. 

Stay tuned...we'll have more on HB2492 and the other bills we're tracking later in the week, including more in-depth takes for Mainstream Members.


Our executive director, Michael Poppa, had the honor of speaking at the ‘I Have A Dream (Vote)’ event at Village Church this past Saturday. Hosted by Stand Up For Black Lives + Prairie Village, the City of Prairie Village Diversity Committee, Johnson County NAACP and other partners, the event celebrated MLK and focused on his efforts to secure voting rights for Black Americans. Read Poppa's remarks at Village Church below, or watch the video here.


By the Power of Our Vote

by Michael Poppa, January 13, 2024, 'I Have a Dream (Vote)', Village Church in Prairie Village

Mainstream Coalition has deep roots in this church community. Dr. Bob Meneilly, the founding pastor of Village Church, was also the founding chairman of Mainstream. And, he was an outspoken advocate for civil rights including fair housing, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and racial justice. 

During the height of the nation's civil rights movement, Dr. Bob preached several sermons encouraging members of this church to welcome their Black neighbors. Unfortunately, this resulted in about half of the congregation but thankfully Village Church and their social justice ministry persisted and grew beyond imagination.

The early 90s witnessed an ultra-conservative shift in the political landscape with increased influence from socially conservative groups. This prompted a bipartisan interfaith group of Johnson County leaders, including Dr. Bob, to come together and form a coalition of common-sense voices, known as Mainstream.

Whether from the pulpit or at the statehouse Dr. Bob worked tirelessly to promote a message of unity, understanding, and collective responsibility. And in this way, I believe he & the other Mainstream founders not only honored Dr. King’s legacy, but fervently answered the call to be outspoken advocates and faithful allies in the fight for racial justice.

About 40 years earlier, national civil rights leaders held a rally at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the hope of persuading the federal government to keep the promise made in the Brown v. Board of Education decision: eliminate segregation in public schools.

It was at the rally that Dr. King delivered his famous “Give Us the Ballot” speech in which he advocated for equitable voting rights for Black Americans as a means to end hate crimes in the south. During his delivery, King urged:

Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights…

We will, by the power of our vote:

Write the law on the statute books…

Fill our legislative halls with men of good will…

Place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy…

By the power of our vote.

Each of us wields a fundamental tool for shaping the course of society. With this power we possess an opportunity to influence the direction of our government and our policies through the democratic process. Our votes serve as powerful means to express our convictions, advocate for change, and ensure that our elected officials at all levels of government are accountable to us, We The People.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 explicitly prohibited qualifications or prerequisites to voting that “deny or abridge the right of any US citizen to vote, regardless of the color of their skin”. Unfortunately, that right is still not guaranteed to everyone.

Today, barriers to voting for certain communities still exist across the nation and right here in Kansas. These contemporary barriers echo the racist sentiment of poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow era:

  • Redlining disguised as redistricting, limits access for certain communities to quality education, employment opportunities, and healthcare – factors that directly influence civic engagement.
  • Mandatory voter ID laws, while said to prevent voter fraud, disproportionately impact marginalized groups who may face barriers in obtaining the required identification. 
  • Limiting access to the ballot, such as reducing the number of voting locations, abolishing ballot drop boxes or imposing stringent voting hours places undue burden on those without reliable transportation or flexibility in the workday to exercise their right to vote.

These intentional barriers, erected by those who understand the power of our vote, disenfranchise marginalized communities by eliminating equitable participation in the democratic process. Today, as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, I urge you to answer that same call for justice that Dr. Bob did so willingly 30 years ago: Do More Than Vote. Be that outspoken advocate. Be that faithful ally.

This November, in addition to the federal races, every single seat in the Kansas Legislature will be on the ballot. Find out where your elected officials stand. If they don’t stand with you; and if they don’t stand up for your community, then use the power of your vote to elect someone who will.


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published this page in Blog 2024-01-15 17:09:25 -0600
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