Vote to get social justice, reduce crime, Jax Baptist ministers urge


Jacksonville’s African-American faith leadership assembled at the Gateway Mall early voting precinct Monday morning to urge people to get to the polls — in particular to combat crime and gang activity in the city.

“The current crime, gangs and community unrest in Jacksonville directly relate to public policy and lack of justice that we can help transform by going to the polls and voting,” said the Rev. Darien Bolden, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference for Duval and Adjacent Counties.

Bolden echoed the myriad calls public officials and faith leaders in Jacksonville have made in recent weeks for increased community intervention and prevention after a recent spike in violent crime. He referred to voting as “critical” to bringing about social transformation and justice.

“We encourage citizens to go to the polls and vote for change so that we do not have a Ferguson or Baltimore incident or  protest in Jacksonville. The ballot box is the place to let out frustrations, not killing each other, whether it is citizens or police officers doing the shooting,” he said.

“Finally, we want to ensure citizens that poll watchers are at the polls to assist them if they have any questions are problems so they can exercise their right to vote.”

Early voting began Monday in Duval County and continues for the next two weeks. The city’s runoff election is set for May 19 in races for mayor, sheriff, and city council.

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected]


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