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Hunger Strike for Suffrage: New Jersey Pastor Among Faithful Leaders Calls for Action

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PLEASANTVILLE, New Jersey (WPVI) – In his sermon this Sunday at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, New Jersey, Pastor Willie Francois was delighted with the word.

But the day before, he wasn’t sure he’d make it all the way.

“I only talk about my fatigue,” he said of his conversation with another faith leader on Saturday.

Francois is tired because he has not had any solid food for five days. He relies on things like broth and smoothies for food because Francois is on hunger strike.

Francois joins dozen of religious leaders across the country in demanding the right to vote.

“We are putting our bodies at risk for this nation. It is a way of leading a non-violent love revolution,” Francois said.

The Faith for Black Lives group organized the hunger strike. It began on January 6th, the year-long anniversary of the Capitol Uprising. The hunger strike does not end until January 17th, Martin Luther King Day.

“Congress has to do something transformative and something forward-looking in terms of the right to vote,” said Francois.

Faith leaders across the country are calling on Congress to pass voting laws to combat laws in a growing number of states that they say represent voter suppression that disproportionately affects people of color.

“Everyone has the right to vote,” said Catherine Hicks, president of the NAACP Philadelphia office. “I think these voter laws are supposed to exclude certain people from voting.”

“These people want to keep people from voting,” said Congressman Dwight Evans (D – Philadelphia) of the state’s laws.

Republicans in DC have used filibusters to stop previous attempts to pass electoral law. Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Mary Gay Scanlon is among the lawmakers pushing for the voting bill to be passed. She made a statement partially stating:

“The struggle for the right to vote has never been easy or easy – generations of Americans have given blood, sweat, and tears to secure this sacred right. In recent years, some states have worked to modernize and simplify the electoral systems. ALL eligible voters are allowed to vote, we have seen others put new restrictions in place that make it difficult for some Americans to vote. For this reason, measures are now needed to protect voting rights – at every level of government. “

Scanlon continues in her statement: “… if the filibuster stands in the way of passing this law, then the filibuster must go.”

Scanlon, Congressman Dwight Evans, and Democratic Congressman Madeleine Dean sent a letter to the president and congressional leaders last week stressing the importance of voting rights legislation.

“Enough is enough,” Evans told Action News. “Let’s let that thing happen.”

Another week before his hunger strike, Francois feeds on the faith that he and other faith leaders hope will send a message

“I have faith,” he said. “Belief in God, belief in humanity and belief in democracy.”

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