Is Voting Still Worth It? Just Ask Ms. Gadson-Birch.

Beverly Gadson-Birch is, supposedly, retired.

But spend any time with Ms. Gadson-Birch, a community activist, business owner and grandmother in Charleston, S.C., and you may struggle, as I did, to keep up with her. She holds political meetings at local hotels. She wants to restart a local newspaper. She buttonholes friends, family members and strangers, reminding them to vote. She does all this while tapping at her Apple Watch or racing through town in a sleek S.U.V. “My husband said to me one day: ‘Girl! Where’d you learn to drive that way?’”

Many Americans have grown weary with politics and disengaged. Ms. Gadson-Birch, 77, is not one of them. Instead, she seems to have boundless energy while fighting political battles where winning appears impossible. At city council hearings and school board meetings, in diners and at church, Ms. Gadson-Birch is assiduously working to share a core belief: Voting is still worth it, even when making progress is slow and punishing work. She is not oblivious to the grim mood among Democratic voters, or the alienation of those who aren’t sure whether the Democratic Party — or democracy itself — holds meaning for them at all. Over a lifetime, Ms. Gadson-Birch has come to believe that American democracy can become whatever Americans make it.

One of 12 children, Ms. Gadson-Birch spent the first years of her childhood in Charleston’s public housing. On weekends, Ms. Gadson-Birch said, her father, who worked at a steel mill, would take the children to the city’s airport to watch the planes take off. “He would say, ‘I never got to fly, but you will,’” Ms. Gadson-Birch recalled. Downtown, there were certain restaurants in which they couldn’t eat, because the family was Black. In many stores, they couldn’t try on clothing or hats before purchasing them, because they were Black. “That really got to my mom,” she said.

In her elementary school, Wallace Consolidated, which was Black-only by law, students were required to buy the used textbooks the city’s white school no longer had any use for. “I can still see the worn covers, the name of the white school stamped on the spine,” Ms. Gadson-Birch told me. One year, Ms. Gadson-Birch said, her father couldn’t afford textbooks for all the children, so she had to go without.

Mostly though, Ms. Gadson-Birch is looking ahead. She has hopes of resurrecting a Black newspaper, The Charleston Chronicle, which closed in 2021 when its founder and publisher died. Charleston not only lost the newspaper but also its offices, where residents could meet with candidates.

Credit…Gavin McIntyre for The New York Times

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