There were many trailblazers during the civil rights movement in Mississippi during the 1960s.
Many were arrested, harassed, beaten and even killed for fighting for equal rights and the ability to register to vote.
Few, however, hold a candle to Fannie Lou Hamer, who blazed the trail for so many from right here in Sunflower County.
Things have changed over the past 60 years locally, but the multiple monuments to Hamer throughout the county remind people like Porchia Anthony, who was just appointed chair of the Sunflower County Election Commission this past January, of the battles that paved the way for her to serve her community in District 2.
“I’m just honored,” Anthony told The E-T during an interview. “Blacks didn’t have that right to go register to vote, and to be here now, it’s kind of overwhelming, because you see so many films and movies about voting rights…Right now, it seems like it’s kind of full circle. I’m just blessed to be a part of it and to be in a position where I can help run elections so that people can vote. It’s heartwarming.”
Anthony, whose husband Rev. Otis Anthony II serves as a Mississippi legislator, understands full well the importance of voting and serving her community, but she said she was still hesitant at first about taking the appointment to District 2 back in 2019, but as she has grown into the role, she knows just how important the commission is to the voters.
“I was hesitant at first, but there’s something to learn each and every day with this,” Anthony said. “I always just thought an election was just going to the polls and voting. But being behind the scenes now, it’s a whole other story. It’s so much that goes into elections. It’s just a lot.”
Anthony said that some of the duties of being an election commissioner include purging the voter rolls.
For instance, if someone has not voted in two consecutive federal elections, they must be removed and contacted to come in and go through the proper procedures to be placed back on the books.
If someone is deceased, they must be removed, she said.
Commissioners are also responsible for appointing poll managers, and they also have to make sure that voting machines are in proper working order before any election.
Anthony said she has gotten support from a lot of people since taking on these duties, but she credits a lot of her early success to Circuit Clerk Carolyn Hamilton.
“She is really good at helping us with that,” she said. “We are very blessed, because a lot of election commissioners don’t have that good relationship with their circuit clerks, and Carolyn, anything we need, she’s there and she’s willing to help us.”
This past election year was much different than the runoff election Anthony served in when she was first appointed in 2019.
For instance, she said there were a lot of absentee votes, due mostly to the pandemic.
There was also a higher turnout, she said, than normal.
Most of that was due to pushing the absentee voting and voter registration drives in multiple communities in Sunflower County.
Anthony said she was extremely pleased with the number of young people who stepped up to help with the election.
She said that many of the older population were fearful of COVID-19 and sat out helping at the polls.
“I was proud of the younger generation that stepped up and wanted to fill their shoes,” Anthony said. “We’re training the younger ones now.”
Anthony said it’s important for young people to learn early to serve their communities and to give back.
As for those who have never voted or have not voted in a while, Anthony encourages them to register and get on the books before the next election.
“Just come on out and register,” she said. “Come and make sure you’re active. We see now how important your voice is from this last election. It’s important to voice your opinion, and your voice is your vote. If you don’t have your voice, you don’t have anything to say. If you want to be part of what’s going on, just come on out to vote.”
Anthony and her husband have two children, Colee, a senior at Gentry and Reagan, a sophomore.