LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright, from the Black Voters Matter Fund, shared with us their insight and mission to increase the power of Black voters in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Momentum for Black Voters
July marked the 63rd anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and a turning point for Black voters in the United States. We are at the center of a perfect storm of failed American policies and—for far too long—have been overlooked, underrepresented and disenfranchised. But we believe that Black communities have incredible potential and power to build and shape their own futures.
We created the Black Voters Matter Fund (BVMF) to support the Black electorate in three key ways:
1. Empowering Black voters with community education, support and resources; 2. Protecting voters and restoring electoral integrity through outreach and activism; 3. Blanketing communities in Black love and joy.
This summer, we launched the "WE GOT POWER" campaign, a series of power-building initiatives and events to provide Black voters with tools and support to address the issues and challenges they face in their community—particularly in the lead up to November 3rd general election. The campaign is a continuation of our mission to increase the power of Black voters as change agents to determine their own destiny and ensure they have equal rights and access to a free and fair election process.
Unfortunately, the tragedies and challenges facing our communities have been constant and relentless. Right now, we are not just fighting for new laws and policies; we are fighting for our very lives. Week after week, news headlines reveal a fresh horror for Black Americans from Covid-19, job losses and our brothers and sisters killed by racial violence.
Kenosha, Wisconsin, is in crisis. Since a police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in front of his young children, the tragedy in Kenosha continues to unfold. The protestors bravely demanding justice for Mr. Blake have been arrested, tear-gassed and beaten by local police. And as activists gathered peacefully to protect and affirm Black lives, an armed white-supremacist-vigilante opened fire on protestors, killing two people and injuring a third. Even as Blake's brave and compassionate family calls for the community to avoid anger that can lead to destruction, their pain and rage are palpable.
Voter suppression is another crisis thriving in our country right now. There is still no constitutional right to vote. The primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas offer recent examples of excessively long lines, closing of multiple poll sites and the use of voter ID laws that disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities.
Many Black voters feel they face two difficult options: voting in person and risking their health or voting by mail and risking their voice. Their legitimate fears are fueled by the White House's efforts to destroy the USPS and delegitimize voting by mail, actively suing 18 states that are acting to expand voting access. And the public health concerns are well-founded: Black people are three times more likely than white people to contract Covid-19, six times more likely to be hospitalized as a result and twice as likely to die.
Voting in person is one way to exercise power in a country that's clutching to the vestiges of systemic racism even as people march in the streets to dismantle it. Data from most recent midterm elections show that only 11% of Black voters voted by mail, which is half the rate of white voters and the lowest percentage of any measured ethnic group. We fill up buses, we drive our elderly to the town hall, we drag the kids, we pack stadium chairs and snacks because we know we might be waiting for hours. But we must make mail-in voting work as well as possible, with grassroots efforts to explain to the public how to properly fill out ballots, so they get counted in addition to expanding the availability of drop boxes.
We are nearing a critical election where police brutality, racial violence, jobs, health care and critical issues affecting Black voters are at the top of the ballot. We have rights, momentum and organizing skills and we intend to use them. Now, more than ever, we must vote like our lives depend on it—because they do.
LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright are co-founders of the Black Voters Matter Fund, a 501c4 dedicated to expanding Black voter engagement and increasing progressive power through movement-building and engagement, working with grassroots organizations, specifically in key states in the South. Brown is the 2020-2021 American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University's Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. Albright is a 2020-2021 Soros Equality Fellow. You can follow BVMF on Twitter @BlackVotersMtr or web.
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