NAACP hosts Demings in Ocala

U.S. Rep. Val Demings speaks during the NAACP 5114 Marion County Branch Jubilee Program at the Greater New Hope Church in Silver Springs Shores on Jan. 2, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
U.S. Senatorial candidate and Orlando-based Congresswoman Val Demings kicked off 2022 at the NAACP Marion County branch’s Jubilee Program on Jan. 2.

As the keynote speaker, Demings joined the NAACP chapter in commemorating the anniversary of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which heralded the end of slavery in the U.S.

Demings spoke about her proposed legislation, the Every Vote Counts Act, and vowed to protect every American’s right to vote easily, safely and securely at the voting booth, by mail or by drop box.

“We must come together and use our intellects and our feet to protect the ballot box,” Demings exhorted.

Touching on protecting the right to vote, Demings questioned the sincerity of the right’s recent moves to legitimize U.S. elections, calling their rhetoric “politically motivated lies.” Demings’ remarks spoke to current voting procedures that legal experts say disenfranchise Black and working-class citizens.

“What are they afraid of?” Demings said of those favoring the voting restrictions. “They should run on their records.”

During her speech, the 10th Congressional District representative called out the racism of her opponent’s base, the siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mismanagement of the pandemic.

“Police officers were called the N-word more than they want to remember,” she said of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Demings’ bid to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio has emphasized “a tireless faith that things can get better” and her opponent’s failure to “show up.”

According to her bio, Demings, 64, grew up the youngest of seven children raised in a two-room house in Jacksonville. Her mother, who was from Marion County, worked as a maid and her father put in long hours as a janitor. Demings has shared on different occasions that she “washed dishes at fast food chains” to pay her way through Florida State University.

Her messages around faith and overcoming odds aligned harmoniously with the hybrid virtual/in-person Jubilee, which focused on human dignity, faith and African Americans’ continuing struggle. Greater New Hope Church and Bishop J. David Stockton presented the event at the church in Silver Springs Shores.

Faith-based speeches and other performances uplifted the Sunday event. The following afternoon, Demings praised the event on her Facebook page, saying “it was truly a night of remembrance and reflection.”

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