PLAINS TWP. — All votes matter.
That’s what a state official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People told members of the Wilkes-Barre NAACP and guests at the chapter’s annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs Hotel.
Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference of Branches, stressed the importance of voting in all elections: national, state, county and local, during her keynote address at the banquet.
First she delivered a cautionary take on the aftermath of Tuesday’s presidential election. The protests in the streets that followed President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton have filled many Americans with dread and uncertainty, she said.
“We’ve never had a transfer of power through riots,” she said. “That is not how power is transferred in the United States.”
Ms. Duvall-Flynn then shifted her focus from national to local politics and elections, which she said have the greatest impact on the lives of average citizens.
“The president has much less to do with what happens at your kitchen table” than do local and county officials and the decisions they make, she said.
She urged everyone to register to vote, and all registered voters to vote in all elections — and to carefully research candidates for all elected offices, however minor.
“Too many people skip local elections,” she said.
She hammered home the importance of decisions made by local elected leaders. For example, school board members hire teachers and set tax rates, while county council members distribute federal funds, Ms. Duvall-Flynn said.
She urged concerned citizens to attend meetings, interact with elected officials and, if necessary, “raise Cain” until their concerns are addressed.
She cited an example at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, a traditionally African-American state university near Philadelphia, where unhappy students made their collective voice heard at county council meetings that had previously been short and not well-attended.
“Your vote counts,” Ms. Duvall-Flynn said. “It has value. Know the worth of your vote.”
Also at the banquet, the Rev. James Breese, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pittston, received the Audrey Spence Community Service Award for his volunteer efforts and contributions to the community.