By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

With the June 7 primary election on the horizon, Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber used her acceptance speech as a rallying cry for Blacks to exercise their right to vote and “make the ancestors” proud. She was joined by Greater Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams, right, and NAACP WIN President Velma Sykes, left. Robert Maryland, OBSERVER

Women across the country are taking the lead and making an impact in numerous aspects and avenues. Local women are also contributing to the effort to make life better. Their work is being recognized by The Greater Sacramento NAACP’s WIN (Women In the NAACP). The group honored two leaders: Lynette Hall, who is changing how the City of Sacramento does business, and Dr. Shirley N. Weber, who is handling her business as the first African American to serve as California secretary of state.

Hall is the City’s community engagement manager and has overseen the city’s volunteer services program, internship program, financial empowerment center and community engagement efforts since December 2019. She accepted her award in an impassioned speech about what she does and why she does it.

“This team was really created to bridge the gap between the underserved community and start building trust where it had been broken, both intentionally and systematically. Our mission is to create a platform that educates, engages and empowers people, businesses and places, especially residents that have been disproportionately underserved,” Hall said. 

“We acknowledged the barriers that people of color and marginalized communities face every day in accessing city programs, services and resources. We recognize the diversity as both a strength and an opportunity.”“

WIN President Velma Sykes said she wanted to salute Hall for her efforts to bring equity and extend opportunities to the African American community.

“There’s never ever been such a time that diversity, equity and inclusion has been so upfront in the City of Sacramento,” Sykes shared.

“We’ve been in the struggle for so long, but it’s getting easier to do a lot of things right now that we weren’t able to do,” she continued. “Lynette Hall has been on the ground working, she’s done grassroots work … that’s the big difference in how things are done with the City of Sacramento, especially in the economic development environment.”

Sykes and Greater Sacramento President Betty Williams spoke about the secretary of state’s leadership during “challenging times.”

“She made sure that each and every one of us had the opportunity to vote, but also that the education on who we were voting for, how we were voting, and where we did vote was equitable,” Sykes said. 

“We felt that it was very appropriate that we honor her as a civil rights organization, with our Women in Leadership Award.”

Dr. Weber, a life-member of the NAACP, said she was humbled by the honor. She and her husband both have held leadership positions in the San Diego chapter.

“We recognize the power of this organization,” Dr. Weber said. “These are difficult times because our very democracy that we believe in is under threat, it’s under attack.”

With the June 7 election looming, Dr. Weber talked about the power of the vote. 

“My father was a sharecropper and he never got a chance to vote as an adult in Arkansas,” she shared. “My grandfather and my grandmother who lived in Arkansas never voted in their entire life, they died before 1965, before the Voting Rights Act.”

“Medgar Evers, he lost his life because he was registering people to vote. There’s a power in voting.”

When Black voter turnout is low, little care is given, she says. When Black voters show up at the polls, people take notice – and take action. 

“People realize these folks are organized, helping each other and getting them to the polls. So what do they do? They create laws, they say you can’t have the polls open after 2 o’clock on Sunday,” Dr. Weber said. “Why? Because the churches, when they let out, were giving people dinner and driving them to the polls to vote.”

Lynette Hall was lauded for her efforts to bridge gaps between the city and underserved communities. Hall is the City of Sacramento’s community engagement manager. Robert Maryland, OBSERVER

“They had the buses to bring them there, so they figured they’d cut that out quick,” she added.

Some states have banned officials from handing out food or water to voters standing in long lines. Others have added restrictions to mail-in ballots after seeing larger numbers of Blacks taking advantage of the option. It’s all the same thing, Dr. Weber said.

“They’re trying to prevent the average person or the working person from going to vote,” she said. 

Making it easier for people to vote in California has earned her some foes, she says.

“I can tell you, people are mad. They’re not happy that California has 87% of its registered voters voting. They’re not happy that our registration numbers are about 88% or 89% of those eligible, but we’re almost at 90%. They’re not happy about that,” she said.

They’ll continue to stew, she says, upon seeing that voters understand the role and responsibility they have and do whatever it takes to cast their ballots.

“We’re working across the nation to say to people, you can make all the rules you want, but we’re going to vote,” she said. “We’re eligible to be registered and we will show up and vote even if we have to stand in line all day, the day before, if we have to bring our lunch in a bag, whatever the deal. Yes, we are going to vote because that is our power and we will not give it up.”

The annual awards presentation was held at The Co-op Spot, a Black-woman owned event space in the Alkali Flats area. Past honorees include U.S. Vice President and former California attorney general Kamala Harris; former state Sen. Holly Mitchell; Alice Lytle, California’s first African American superior court judge; Dr. Alice Huffman, president emeritus of the California-Hawaii NAACP; school superintendent Dr. Ramona Bishop; and former KCRA news director Lori Waldon.