“Your vote is your voice and it took blood, sweat, and tears to get the right to vote. You can’t just throw it away.” – Flo Reed
Floretta “Flo” Reed grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma at a time when drinking fountains and restrooms, designated for white or black students, segregated them from each other. After graduating from Muskogee High School in 1962, Flo moved to California to live with her sister. She studied business administration at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A freshman there, Flo still wasn’t old enough to vote. “People forget that 18-year-olds couldn’t always vote. You had to be 21 years old in those days,” she said.
The Right to Vote Wasn’t Always Guaranteed
Flo knew, that when she was old enough, she would exercise her right as a United States citizen to vote. The importance of this right and responsibility was instilled in her and her siblings by their parents, Mintha and Herman Kirby. “My parents always voted but, in those days, it wasn’t a guaranteed right,” Flo said. “They had to take a test in order to be allowed to cast their vote. That’s just how it was.”
While Flo attended UCLA, she was exposed to and participated in student protests and marches demanding civil rights, including expanding voting rights to all Americans, without discrimination. As an activist, Flo traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Flo remembers not knowing what to expect but actively preparing for the rally and said, “We had to be trained before going to D.C. We were trained not to react when people spit on us, shouted at us, called us names, and even shoved us.”
When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Johnson, Flo celebrated with her fellow activists. Although this constituted a huge victory, Flo has continued her career in activism throughout her life.
Lifetime of Activism
During a 35-year career with the United States Postal Service (USPS), Flo held many state and regional positions. Her final position was that of Metro Manager of Operations for Dallas/Fort Worth USPS. She retired as the highest ranking African American female in the United States Postal Service.
Flo incorporated activism in her work at USPS. She is a founding member of the African American Postal League United for Success (A-PLUS). A-PLUS began in 1987 to mentor and develop high potential African American supervisors, managers, and executives. Since its inception, thousands of African American USPS employees have been promoted. A-PLUS recently awarded Flo with the LeGree S. Daniels Heritage Award.
Voting is Power
Over the past 53 years, Flo has integrated her activist spirit and her experience as a leader into her life at All Souls and the Tulsa community. Her understanding of the power of voting, coupled with the importance to her of her faith community at All Souls, helped Flo lead the charge in founding Voting is Power (VIP) in Tulsa. VIP is a coalition of community and faith groups actively working to increase voter engagement and turnout. All Souls is one of the founding faith partners thanks to Flo’s leadership. “The right to vote and civil rights have always been important to me. I love my church because I can act on what is important to me here,” Flo said.
Flo never dreamed that she would see a time when people seem to have forgotten about the struggle for the right to the vote. “It just blows my mind. The only way your voice is heard is through voting,” Flo said, “Your vote is your voice and it took blood, sweat, and tears to get the right to vote. You can’t just throw it away.”
Flo encourages everyone to vote and get involved with VIP as volunteers work to register voters and provide education at All Souls and in the community. To learn more about VIP and to volunteer, visit www.votingpower.org.
As an All Souls member, Flo serves on the Board of Trustees, is a member of the Intercultural Bridging Team and the Justice Council, and is a facilitator for SHADZ, a racial identity group for people of color which equips participants to effectively challenge racism and develop allies across racial lines.
Read more about activism and our members in our Practice & Voice category on beyondbelief.online.