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The Continuing Path to Reconciliation
Dear Bay Weekly:
With all due respect to Ms. Oppenheims critique of the recent Slavery Reconciliation Walk [Commentary Vol. XII, No. 41: Oct. 7], I would like to suggest that, rather than simply providing a frame for Lifeline Expeditions picture, the series of events in Annapolis were far more important.
If Lifeline Expeditions symbolism looks strange to 21st-century Americans, the interracial planning committee here sought to translate those symbols into a language that would speak to Annapolitans, African American and white. Accustomed as we are, especially in a political season, to examining events for secret motives and spin, it is easy to parse every word and gesture for some hidden meaning. Accepting the sincerity of David L. Pott and his groups effort to demonstrate their repentance of past sins is the more difficult, but ultimately more productive, path to take.
The problem with racial dialogue goes deeper than the symbolism of this one event. Most of us are more comfortable forgetting the past, convincing ourselves that the shameful underside of the American myth is better left unexamined. But the gestures of friendship on the part of descendants of enslaved people and slaveholders, witnessed by over 300 people who attended, reminded us that old suspicions can be overcome with the sincere commitment to change, as embodied by the Lifeline Expedition group. Their yoke and chains exemplify the burden of racism that we all need to remove from ourselves and from each other.
Elizabeth P. Stewart, Banneker-Douglass Museum: Member of the Slavery Reconciliation Walk Planning Committee
Know Your Rights When You Go to Vote
Dear Bay Weekly:
One and a half to three million voters were unable to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential election because of voter-registration problems. Too often, citizens who registered to vote didnt have their names on the voter rolls at the polling place. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which protects those voters, ensuring that every eligible voter who goes to the polls can cast a ballot and have that ballot counted.
Beginning on Election Day 2004, if you arrive at the polls and there is a question about your eligibility, then you have a right to a provisional ballot. For example, if your name does not appear on the registration list or if you do not have identification, you still must be given a provisional ballot. Before counting the provisional ballot, election administrators will determine eligibility and, after the election, the voter can find out whether his or her vote was counted.
This new federal provisional ballot requirement can keep the country from experiencing another election where voters are turned away from the polls and ballots of eligible citizens go uncounted.
Barbara Fetterhoff and Annette Funn, Copresidents: League of Women Voters of Calvert County