Political Notebook: MLK still has lessons for public in 2022, says Councilman Anthony Smith

Published 5:05 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

By Ben Stansell and Natalie Anderson


During an impassioned speech Saturday morning, Salisbury City Council member Anthony Smith told Rowan County Democrats to look to the writing of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. for instruction and inspiration.

Smith presented “We are Prisoners of Hope: a talk on MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail” during the Rowan County Democratic Party’s February breakfast. The event, which was attended by several dozen people, was held virtually via Zoom.

King wrote the letter in April 1963 while imprisoned for protesting racial injustice. The letter was a critical text in the Civil Rights Movement, but Smith said on Saturday that King’s writing is similarly relevant today.

“King’s letter is still a word for us today,” Smith said. “A word of Socratic tension, a word of liberation, a word of realism, grounded in the demands of the oppressed and their allies.”

Smith focused on several principles from King’s letter during his presentation. One calls on the community “to go upstream” when addressing issues stemming from historical inequities. Paraphrasing South African theologian Desmond Tutu, Smith encouraged those watching to stop pulling people from the river, and to go upstream to determine exactly why they’re falling into the water.

A recent example of this, Smith said, came following the shooting at the Sam Moir Christmas Classic basketball tournament at Catawba College. In the wake of the shooting, Smith said he was consistently told that fatherlessness was the problem. He pointed to that line of thinking as faulty and criticized it for not looking at the root problem.

“Absent fathers, we are told, is the big reason violence hits some communities more than others,” Smith said. “Well, King’s letter would ask us to go further upstream.”

Smith referenced a report from the Centers for Disease Control that showed Black fathers are more involved with their children in a number of different measures than other racial groups.

The next principle Smith explored was that “we are all connected.” Smith illustrated this idea with one of King’s most famous quotes: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Smith said “good people cannot be silent.” This principle was a call to action. Smith called on those listening to be positive agents of change, not apathetic and inactive.

Smith said a takeaway from King’s letter is to “prepare for creative tension.” Quoting King, Smith said “change is forged through tension.”

One of the final points Smith pulled from King’s letter was for people to be “good thermometers” and “faithful thermostats.” Smith said community members need to better learn and understand what the community needs and work to meet those needs to accelerate change in the community.

Online absentee by mail ballot request now open for 2022 primary election

Any registered and eligible North Carolina voter can now request an absentee by mail ballot for the 2022 primary election online through the state portal established in 2020.

The portal can be located on the North Carolina Board of Elections’ website, or by visiting votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home. It was launched during the 2020 election when more than 362,000 requests were made on the portal.

“The absentee ballot portal has helped many voters securely request their absentee ballots since we started it in 2020,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state Board of Elections. “Whether you prefer to vote by mail or in person, we encourage all voters to choose the voting method that works best for you.”

To request a ballot, voters must verify their identity by providing their full name, date of birth, address and either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number.

The primary election is currently slated for May 17, with the general election falling on Nov. 8. The deadline to request an absentee by mail ballot is 5 p.m. on May 10. Voters must return such ballots, sealed inside a special envelope, to their county boards of elections no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day. Mailed ballots received after that day will only be counted if they’re postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than 5 p.m. on Friday after the election, per state law.

The portal also allows military, overseas and visually impaired voters to submit their ballot through the web-based portal. The deadline for military and overseas voters to request absentee by mail ballots is 5 p.m. on May 16. Visually impaired voters are bound to the May 10 deadline.

The deadline to register in time for the primary election is April 22 for all non-military and overseas voters.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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