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‘Fuel the Vote’ event helps residents, including a voice in election

Kenisha Fray hands out “Pledge to be a Voter” cards during the “Fuel the Vote” food distribution and voter registration drive at The Home Depot Backyard in Atlanta on Saturday, September 26, 2020. Sponsored by Michelle Obama’s nonprofit organization When We All Vote, the event provided food and groceries to hundreds of people and helped them prepare to cast their ballots in November. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

By Shelia Poole, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Volunteers at the “Fuel the Vote” voter registration drive didn’t have to convince Sherry B. Williams about the importance of casting her ballot.

The Atlanta native has been voting since she was 18 years old.

“It’s everything,” she said. “It’s everything. Everything that we do revolves around who we vote for or who we didn’t vote for. If you don’t vote then that means you believe that other people know what you need better than you do.”

Williams was among hundreds of people who attended the voter registration and census drive and food distribution event at The Home Depot Backyard next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

There was a steady stream of cars that drove through the area as music pumped from speakers. Volunteers gave away children’s books, swag bags filled with Atlanta Falcons merchandise and sandwiches to people who drove through.

Volunteer Michael Yancey, of McDonough and a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, beamed as he handed out boxes of food that included milk, butter, chicken and fresh fruit and vegetables.

People were asked to wear masks for pandemic safety, and many maintained social-distancing guidelines.

“I’m a retired military guy and I’ve seen a lot of third-world countries,” he said. “We have poverty right here in U.S., which is supposed to be the greatest nation in the world. It was very shocking to me.”

He was also supportive of efforts to register people to vote.

“My grandfather and grandmother told us how important it is to vote and to be involved,” he said. “I don’t want to let them down. I want to do my part.”

When We All Vote was launched in 2018 by former first lady Michelle Obama with other high-profile co-chairs such as entertainers Kerry Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe and Faith Hill. The nonprofit, which is nonpartisan, promotes voter education and registration.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta hip-hop duo EarthGang were also on hand to urge people to vote.

The mayor said the event was not about supporting one party or the other, but making voters’ voices heard.

Bottoms said “2020′s been a tough year for so many people for so many reasons and so registering to vote just may not be top of the line for folks,” but the event gives people a chance to do it all at one time.

All eyes are on congressional races and the presidential election, which will be held on Nov. 3.

Olu of EarthGang emphasized the importance of voting and being a “champion for the things we want to see in our neighborhoods on the local level as well as the global level.”

In addition to voting, he urged people to go out in the communities “and still be that change.”