Sweltering Florida heat couldn’t stop a group of passionate voters from making a long walk to the ballot box.
Voters gathered at Greater St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, 108 S. Warnell St., for the church’s Parade to the Polls event, where everyone in attendance — almost 185 people, by associate minister Maurice Wilson’s count — walked (or drove) from the church to Bruton Memorial Library to either stand in line to vote early or drop off their completed mail-in ballots at the site’s secure drop box.
“I was deliciously delighted by our event and how successful it was, but we could not have done it without the support of our community,” Wilson said.
The event started at the church with a gathering where those who participated could get shirts and bags branded with the Parade to the Polls logo, socialize and listen to a few speakers address the crowd before heading out. The event was non-partisan and no one’s campaign was endorsed by anyone but individuals who participated, but it did draw the attention of politicians either in office or aspiring to get there. Hillsborough County commissioner Sandra Murman and campaign staff for Sheriff Chad Chronister attended, as did State Rep.-District 58 candidate C.L. Townsend. Plant City commissioner Mary Thomas Mathis, who is a member of Wilson’s church, also attended.
“We’re gonna have ‘good trouble’ today,” Mathis told the group shortly before the walk began. “Like Michelle Obama said, you need to vote like your lives depend on it.”
As the group walked along the streets of downtown Plant City, Wilson led the group in a chant to make sure everyone could hear their voices.
Their rallying cry? “Our votes matter!”
The group walked past supporters of both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, and their enthusiasm to get out there and vote was met with support from both sides.
“I was ecstatic to see the turnout and the positive reaction from the community… to see people waving, giving way to us and interacting with us as we went to exercise our right was wonderful,” Wilson said. “There was nothing negative that happened to anyone and I was ecstatic.”
After voters cast their ballots, they could go back to the church to get lunch and enjoy the rest of their Sunday.