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103-year-old Detroiter, a voter since FDR's presidency, says if you have a problem, vote

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Detroiter Talu Massey is one of the Americans featured in a star-filled voting rights video "I Have the Right to Vote."

Some folks in the anthemic piece are known to many, like "Hamilton" star Christopher Jackson, Broadway's Billy Porter, actor Hill Harper and sports legend Billie Jean King. Massey, however, is special for a different reason.

She's a 103-year-old Detroiter who has exercised her right to vote every chance she could, dating back to the re-election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

"I have voted every election as far as I can remember," she told The Detroit News via phone from her house in Detroit. She's lived in the city since she was a young child after arriving from Birmingham, Alabama. 

Talu Massey poses for a photo in her home in, in Detroit, October 27, 2020. The 103-year-old recently appeared in a voting rights video alongside celebrities like Hill Harper and Billy Porter.

As a senior citizen, one of her main concerns as it relates to politics is the cost of living. 

"I've been retired since 1980," she said. "I'm on a fixed income and I just have to live that way."

She said being asked to be a part of this video was "exciting."

"It's something new," said the centenarian, who voted in September by absentee ballot. She's seen in the video singing along to the lyrics, which declare "I've got a right to vote." 

Massey said in her decades of casting a ballot, she's never faced a struggle or barrier until this election, due to the complications of being around other people because of COVID-19. At the same time, this is one of the most intense elections in many years because of the divisiveness. 

Detroiter Talu Massey sings along in the video for the collaborative anthem "I Have A Right to Vote."

"I hope the country makes big changes as far as getting along, crossing the aisle on each side and improving, well, everywhere," she said. "There's a lot to be learned because there's a lot of excitement right now, and a lot of destruction among the young people ... and a lot of confusion, really." 

The great-grandmother says there should be more communication between government officials and the federal government should do more for each state. 

While she doesn't have a favorite president that she's voted for over the past nine or so decades, she liked John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, and wasn't a fan of Richard Nixon. When asked about candidates that weren't elected, she wonders about Hillary Clinton, and what would have happened had she won.

"It would have been all together different," she said. As for women's rights, she thinks things are still "moving slowly."

As one of the city's most seasoned voters, Massey says she's happy with Mayor Mike Duggan. 

"He's doing a pretty good job with what he has to work with," she said. Of all the changes the city has seen over the years, she brings up the work done to get rid of blighted houses, remove rubble and make the land useful for a new generation. 

"They should try to," she said, when asked what she would say to try to get non-voters to the polls. "If they have a problem, if they're complaining, try to get your points across by voting. Let your voice be heard through elections.

"Get out and vote ... if you want your man to win, it's up to you to do the voting." 

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens