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Bishop Vashti McKenzie presents the credentials committee report from co-chairs during day one of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte.
In the summer of 1976, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan electrified the nation as she stood at the podium in New York City and told delegates to the Democratic National Convention that “my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.”
One of the people listening to the speech of July 12 was a 29-year-old minister who would go onto to blaze her own historic trail as the first female to be ordained as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
During her speech as the co-chair of the credentials committee Tuesday night at this year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, McKenzie said in a cell phone interview moments after her speech that standing before the delegates she reflected on Jordan. She gave a report on behalf of the credentials committee, which she chaired with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
“It was quite an honor to be a co-chair of the credentials committee along with Mayor Castro. It was truly an honor to be able to stand at the podium tonight,” said McKenzie, who is also scheduled to offer an invocation during the convention. “I watched Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman to give a speech before the Democratic Convention. I was absolutely enthrawled by her intelligence, her articulation. It was powerful. She was such a role model for African American young women all across the United States.”
While McKenzie said it was an honor to speak on the first night of the convention and to be able to offer the invocation on Wednesday, her joy was tempered by the reality that the party has its work cut out in terms of educating people about a voting process that in some communities will be more hostile than it was four years ago.
“Voter suppression laws are now on the books that get in the way for minorities and other people to have an opportunity to make a decision,” she said. “We need to work to make sure that the unfair voter suppression laws are overturned wherever they are and we need to inform people about what they need in order to vote. “
“Go register to vote, find your polling place before election day and vote early,” said the Baltimore native. “ Educate yourself about the issues because there is so much misinformation out there. Just because people keep saying something doesn’t make it true.”