CLEVELAND — A father-son duo is fighting to protect the vote of Black people, who for decades have been, and continue to be, the victims of voter suppression.
The two ministers are working to educate those headed to the polls so they know their rights.
Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. is Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. He is also a Civil Rights leader who marched in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Moss was also instrumental in helping to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed. The law ensured African Americans the right to vote.
Now, he’s one of the narrators of a short film about his father, Otis Moss Senior, and his quest to vote for the first time, in 1946.
“In the morning when he left with great purpose, great intention. Setting a great example to participate in a democratic process to fulfill the idea of democracy,” said Moss, Jr.
The family was excited to see their patriarch and World War I veteran, prepare to exercise his right. However, after walking six miles to his polling place, Otis, Sr. was sent to a second location—and then a third.
He walked about 20 miles in total, hoping to cast his ballot, but in the end, he was denied a total of three times that day.
“When he came home and gave us his experience, the story, the injustice, and the brutal method of disenfranchisement, there was pain in our souls, and to some extent, the pain is still there,” said Moss, Jr.
Also narrating this film, is Rev. Otis Moss, III, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He’s also grandson to Otis Moss Sr.
This preacher wrote the script about his granddad this summer.
“This film was to help a new generation understand the legacy, the struggle, the challenge, the dignity of our ancestors,” said Moss III.
He continued, “This moment we have people in power who do not want you to vote. We have modern forms of voter suppression in 2020 that are similar to what happened in 1946. You’re at the wrong polling place, or you only have one drop off place for your ballot.”
The film’s goal is to educate people about their rights before they get to the polls. The father-son duo wants to get it before the eyes of 100,000 church folk before Election Day.
“Our strategy is to deploy the film to 500 churches, mostly in swing states, primarily African American churches,” says Moss.
The film is already getting traction on its dedicated website, named after the film, Otis’ Dream.
Otis Moss, Jr. told News 5 it was his father’s injustice that paved the way for his civil rights work. “So the injustice to our father has become an incentive, a motivation, an obligation.”
Otis Moss, Sr died a few years later, and never got a chance to vote.
To watch the full 12-minute short film, Otis’ Dream, click here.