Beyoncé shared an open letter penned by her mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer with her 149 million followers on Instagram Sunday evening (June 28).
The letter urges the senators to pass the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act — the bill introduced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals and businesses — to help Americans, in particular the “disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities,” safely exercise their right to vote in this year’s elections.
The letter is co-signed by daughters Beyoncé and Solange, as well as celebrities like Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Regina King, Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and Kerry Washington. Shareeduh McGee Tate (matriarch of the George Floyd family), Tamika Palmer (mother of Breonna Taylor), Gwen Carr (mother of Eric Garner), Kadiatou Diallo (mother of Amadou Diallo), Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin), Maria Hamilton (mother of Dontre Hamilton), Wanda Johnson (mother of Oscar Grant), Rep. Lucy McBath (mother of Jordan Davis) and Geneva Reed-Veal (mother of Sandra Bland) also co-signed it.
“We are concerned Black women,” Knowles-Lawson wrote. “Many of us are mothers of Black sons and daughters — some of whom have lost our children — and we have a vision for a new America.This past month has culminated in a moment of reckoning for the country. As members of the Black community, we are hurting, we are angry, and we are anguished by the repeated assaults of Black bodies, brought to light once again by the recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of what has for too long been incorrectly coined ‘justice.’ But even in this moment, when we feel despair and deep exhaustion, we remember one essential truth: our voices have power.”
She went on to cite that 76 percent of Americans recognize that racism is “a big problem” in their country, which is a 26 percent increase from five years ago — and that the shift in opinion “is the result of a people-powered movement.”
But she pointed out that to “create a democracy that truly represents us all,” everyone must be able to easily participate in voting without “unnecessary roadblocks to the ballot.”
“Chaos at polling places in recent primaries has demonstrated that elections officials are unprepared to hold safe and accessible elections this year” during the coronavirus pandemic, she wrote, mentioning examples of problematic experiences in Wisconsin, where — in Milwaukee — it was reported that more than 70 voters contracted COVID-19 on Election Day, when they had to stand in line for hours at limited polling places due to not receiving absentee ballots in the mail; Pennsylvania, where many people also failed to receive ballots in the mail and could only vote in-person; Georgia, where voting machines broke down and voters stood in line for hours due to not receiving mailed ballots; and Kentucky, where — in the city of Louisville — only a single polling place opened.
“This is modern-day voter suppression plain and simple. Voters in all these states risked their health, and that of their communities, simply to make their voices heard. People should be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote and stay healthy, even during a pandemic. We should not have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy,” she wrote.
The letter continued: “Many are advocating for structural change through legislation. Among the most urgent is H.R. 6800, The HEROES Act, a bill passed by the House of Representatives in May that would provide a $3 trillion safety net for those most impacted by COVID-19, including disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities, through provision of health care, economic security, justice system reform, housing, and voting access. Indeed, the proposed $3.6 billion for state administration of federal elections is essential if we are, collectively as a nation, to ensure access to the ballot box for all while protecting our nation’s health and safety amid a pandemic — the second wave of which is all but certain this fall. In addition to expanding voter registration opportunities and providing at least two weeks of safe in-person early voting nationwide, a key reform to administer the electiion safely will be providing every registered American with an absentee ballot with pre-paid postage, mailed with enough time for completion and return. Congress has starved state and local communities of the resources they need to run safe, and accessible, elections. We can’t allow this in November. Our democracy can’t wait.”
“Please understand, it is everyone’s responsibility to take action and do their part to undo this country’s systemic racism,” she said. “Senators, some of you may never know what it is to wonder whether your child could be shot by the very people purportedly tasked with protecting their life. We pray that, in the future, no one suffers that fear. But to get there, we must act together, as Americans. That is why it’s essential you pass H.R. 6800, The HEROES Act as a step in the right direction toward a more inclusive democracy.”
“In passing this legislation,” she wrote, “you will take an affirmative step toward declaring that Black lives matter. You will help build an America as good as its ideals. And you will like the country — thanks to the creation of a more accountable democracy in which all Americans’ voices are heard — toward a long-sought moment in which no mother need to wonder: will my son or daughter not make it home tonight because of the color of their skin?”
See the full letter below.