Give Us The Ballot … This Is An Address Delivered At The Prayer Pilgrimage For Freedom In Washington D.C

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo receiving a plaque from the Chairperson, Association of Professional Women Engineers in Nigeria (APWEN), Engr. (Mrs) Ohagwa Anthonia Chinel, during a courtesy visit in Government House, Port Harcourt, recently

Mr  Chairman, distinguished platform associates, fellow Americans. Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent, and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of goodwill, this May seventeenth decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. (Yes)
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry
the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti- Iynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books ofthe South (All right) and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs (Yeah) into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will fill our legislative halls of with men of goodwill (All right now) and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a “Southern Manifesto” because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. (Tell‘em about it) Give us the ballot (Yeah), and we will place judges on the benches of the south who will do justly and love mercy (Yeah), and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who will, who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine. Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will quietly and non violently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May seventeenth, 1954 (That’s right) In this juncture of our nation’s history, there is an urgent need for dedicated and courageous leadership. If we are to solve the problems ahead and make racial justice a reality, this leadership must be fourfold.
First, there is need for strong, aggressive leadership from the federal government. So far, only the judicial branch of the government has evinced this quality of leadership. If the executive and legislative branches of the government were as concerned about the protection of our citizenship rights as the federal courts have been, then the transition from a segregated to an integrated society would be infinitely smoother. But we so often look to Washington in vain for this concern. In the midst of the tragic breakdown of law and order, the executive branch of the government is all too silent and apathetic. In the midst of the desperate need for civil rights legislation, the legislative branch of the government is all too stagnant and hypocritical. This dearth of positive leadership from the federal government is not confined to one particular political party. Both political parties have betrayed the cause of justice. (Oh yes) The Democrats have betrayed it by capitulating to the prejudices and undemocratic practices of the southern Dixiecrats. The Republican: have betrayed it by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of right wing, reactionary northerners. These men so often have a high blood pressure of words and an anemia of deeds. [laughter] In the midst these prevailing conditions, we come to Washington today pleading with the president and members of Congress to provide a strong, moral, and courageous leadership for a situation that cannot permanently be evaded. We come humbly to say to the men in the forefront of our government that the civil rights issue is not an Ephemeral, evanescent domestic issue that can be kicked about by reactionary guardians of the status quo; it is rather an eternal moral issue which may well determine the destiny of our nation (Yeah) in the ideological struggle with communism. The hour is late. The clock of destiny is ticking out. We must act now, before it is too late. A second area in which there is need for strong leadership is from the white northern liberals. There is a dire need today for a liberalism which is truly liberal. What we are witnessing today in so many northern communities is a sort of quasi-liberalism which is based on the principle of looking sympathetically at all sides. It is a liberalism so bent on seeing all sides, that it fails to become committed to either side. It is a liberalism that is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. It is a liberalism which is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. (All right) We call for a liberalism from the North which will be thoroughly committed to the ideal of  racial justice and will not be deterred by the propaganda and subtle words of those who say: “Slow up for a while you’re pushing too fast.” A third source that we must look to for strong leadership is from the moderates of the white South. It is unfortunate that at this time the leadership of the white South stems from the close-minded reactionaries. These persons gain  prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas and by deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind. It is my firm belief that this close-minded, reactionary, recalcitrant group constitutes a numerical minority. There are in the white South more open-minded moderates than appears on the surface. These persons are silent today because of fear of social, political and economic reprisals. God grant that the white moderates of the South will rise up courageously, without fear, and take up the leadership in this tense period of transition. I can not close without stressing the urgent need for strong, courageous and intelligent leadership from the Negro community. We need, leadership that is calm and yet positive. This is no day for the rabble rouser, whether he be Negro or white. (All right) We must realise that we are grappling with the most weighty social problem of this nation and in grappling with such a complex problem there is no place for misguided emotionalism. (All right, That’s right) We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice. We must never become bitter. I know how we feel sometime. There is the danger that those of us who have been forced so long to stand amid the tragic midnight of oppression-those of us who have been trampled over, those of us who have been kicked about there is the danger that we will become bitter. But if we will become bitter and indulge in hate campaigns, the old, the new order which is emerging will be nothing but a duplication of the old order. (Yeah, That’s all right) We must meet hate with love. (Yeah) We must meet physical force with soul force. There is still a voice crying out through the vista of time, saying: “Love your enemies (Yeah), bless them that curse you (Yes), pray for them that despitefully use you.”
(That’s right, All right) Then, and only then, can you matriculate into the university then, can you matriculate into the university of eternal life. That same voice cries out in terms lifted to cosmic proportions: “He who lives by the
sword will perish by the sword.” (Yeah, Lord) And history is replete with the bleached bones of nations (Yeah) that failed to follow this command. (All right) We must follow nonviolence and love. (Yes, Lord) Now, I’m not talking about a sentimental, shallow kind of love. (Go ahead) I’m not talking about eros, which is a sort of aesthetic, romantic love. I’m not even talking about philia which is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. But I’m talking about agape. (Yes sir) I’m talking about the love of God in the hearts of men. (Yes) I’m talking about a type of  love which will cause you to love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. (Go ahead) We’ve got to love. (Oh yes)
There is another warning signal. We talk a great deal about our rights, and rightly so. We proudly proclaim that three-fourths of the peoples of the world are colored. We have the privilege of noticing in our generation the great drama of freedom and independence as it unfolds in Asia and Africa. All of these things are in line with the unfolding work of Providence. But we must be sure that we accept them in the right spirit. We must not seek to use our emerging freedom and our growing power to do the same thing to the white minority that has been done to us for so many centuries. (Yes) Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man. We must not become victimised with a philosophy of black supremacy. God is not interested merely in freeing black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race. (Yes, All right) We must work with  determination to create a society (Yes), not where black men are superior and other men are inferior and vice versa, but a society in which all men will live together as brothers (Yes), and respect the dignity and worth of human personality. (Yes) We must also avoid the temptation of being victimized with a psychology of victors.
We have won marvelous victories. Through the work of the NAACP, we have been able to do some of the most amazing things of this generation. And I come this afternoon with nothing, nothing but praise for this great organization, the work that it has already done and the work that it will do in the future. And although they’re outlawed in Alabama and other states, the fact still remains that this organization has done more to achieve civil rights for Negroes than any other organization we can point to. (Yeah, Amen) Certainly, this is fine. But we must not, however, remain satisfied with a court victory over our white brothers. We must respond to every decision with an understanding of those who have opposed us and with an appreciation of the difficult adjustments that the court orders pose for them. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interest and understanding respect. I conclude by saying that each of us must keep faith in the future. Let us not despair. Let us realize that as we struggle for justice and freedom, we have cosmic companionship. This is the long faith of the Hebraic-Christian tradition: that God is not some Aristotelian Unmoved Mover who merely contemplates upon Himself. He is not merely a self-knowing God, but an other-loving God (Yeah) forever working through history for the establishment of His kingdom. And those of us who call the name of Jesus Christ find something of an event in our Christian faith that tells us this. There is something in our faith that says to “Never despair; never give up; never feel that the cause of righteousness justice is doomed.” There is something in our Christian faith, at the center  which says to us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but triuphant beat of the drums of Easter.
(That’s right) There is something in our faith that says evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy the palace and Christ the (That’s right), but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B. C. (Yes), so that even the name, the life of Caesar be dated by his name.