Voting is nothing new for native Detroiter Espy Thomas. She votes however with a thankful heart, though, every time she does it because of her ancestors.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN — She votes for them because they can’t.

Native Detroiter Espy Thomas votes for her ancestors, those who came to America in chains with hope still flickering in their hearts. She votes for those who paved the way for her, a Black American, and others like her. She votes for the freedom marchers, the juke joint dancers, and her grandfather, 90, who will soon be unable to vote.

“I vote for my grandaddy,” she said of her family’s patriarch who worked hard for the family at a steel mill. “He literally got a couple days left to live right now. He’s not going to be able to vote come November.”

Thomas is a torch carrier herself. She takes up her passion of voting in every election and as a Democrat, she said that she is excited about seeing vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on the ticket.

“(Kamala) represents the ‘how far we have come’ … that it’s possible,” Thomas said.

Thomas added that she doesn’t just live her life thinking about herself.

 “I think about all the people who have done something in order to just be a bridge in order for us to walk on and carry the torch,” she, who feels that Kamala is paving the way, said.

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Thomas added that she is zealous about voting for her ancestors including the famous ones people know of, and those who no one knows, including slaves who tragically died on their journey to America.

“I’m very strongly connected to my ancestors; every last one of them. I vote for all of them,” she said.  “The ones that didn’t even know what they did for me and my family fighting. For us as a whole to exist right now.”

Espy Thomas beats to her own drum and the drum of her ancestors.
Photo courtesy of Espy Thomas

She added that her predecessors would love to see what is happening today and be a part of the Democratic process, that is why she stands in the gap for them.

“I take my right to vote very seriously,” she said. “I go to the polls with pride.”

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Thomas added that she and her sister goes to the polls and vote every time and think about the small and large sacrifices her ancestors made to get her where she is today.

“I don’t forget those when I have to do anything in my life,” she said. “I carry my ancestors’ spirits with me all the time. The ones directly related to me and the ones way down the lineage; it all matters. It all matters.”

Thomas, whose uncle describes her as a “flower child,” was born and raised on the west side of Detroit, and was raised attending Fellowship Chapel, an African-centric church where she learned to appreciate African-centered spirituality and being in touch with one’s’ roots. 

That’s why it’s not hard for the business owner to be grateful toward people like Harriet Tubman who kept going until her people were freed.

“She went back and forth (through the Underground Railroad) by herself, and she said ‘I am not going to stop,’” she said. 

That indefatigable spirit dwells in Thomas, too. It overflows and Thomas isn’t stopping either. She’s got a bridge to cross. She’s got people to bring with her. She keeps moving.

“My ancestors have made big contributions to the way we live our lives right now and we have the right to sit down and eat at places, and be able to vote and be able to live in a house … and not be the maid there,” she said. 

Thomas added that her ancestors would encourage her to keep pushing amidst the chaos and continue to go forth.

“I definitely think they (my ancestors) would tell me don’t stop, because we’re going through a lot right now as a family, as a community, and a world. But I think our ancestors went through a lot too and (they) didn’t stop.”