Educate, Organize, Mobilize – In my opinion, the evening of June 11, 2015 was a very eventful evening for advocates of voter rights protection and the opponents of voter suppression. It was the evening that North Carolina’s premier Black Leadership organization, the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus (Caucus), stepped into the breach and declared that a “massive voter turnout” for November 2016 was mandatory for the well being of Black and progressive communities.
Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Larry Hall and Rodney Moore, the Caucus convened a special meeting and invited me to share my ideas regarding the Black community’s need for a massive turnout in November 2016. If we’re going to stop the erosion of gains made over the last 50 years under voter rights protections created by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the time to act is now.
Caucus Chair, Garland Pierce presided over the meeting of most of the Caucus members and guided a lively discussion around the many issues inherent in producing the voter turnout that we felt was necessary to protect our monumental political gains over the last 50 years.
During the discussion, Advance NC was identified as an entity that has been organizing for community and voter engagement and it was the sense of the Caucus to ask them to meet and discuss working together and possibly merging efforts. At the end of our discussion, Senator Don Davis made a motion to endorse the Caucus’ commitment to help create the massive turnout and to educate, organize and mobilize our communities statewide in doing so. The motion carried without opposition.
Also, during the meeting I noted that it was my intention to write about our mobilization efforts as they evolved. I also noted that since September 2013 I had written nearly 90 commentaries related to voter suppression. The importance of that is the fact that our challenges have been addressed and considered in much more detail than we were able to get into during the Caucus’ meeting. It was felt that now is the time to engage in aggressive outreach to other individuals and organizations that believe in and support our objectives.
As I’ve written in the past, it is essential that Black elected officials take the lead in our mobilization efforts. The Caucus has taken the first step. I expect that they’ll help recruit other organizations and individuals to join our cause and become spoke persons for it. Not every individual and organization will make the same contribution to this initiative, but it’s important that to the extent possible, all organizations and individuals define their respective roles to avoid duplication of efforts and waste time and resources.
It is important to understand that although my commentaries have historically been centered on voter suppression, there are many other quality of life issues inherent in politics and we will include them in our discussions going forward. Many quality of life issues address the reasonable expectations that all voters should have of their political leaders. Of course jobs, wealth creation and economic opportunity must always be a part of our discussions and mobilization.
Last week I reported on the sentiment of the North Carolina Black Elected Municipal Officials (NC BEMO) as expressed during my presentation to them on July 30th. They displayed a strong desire to commit themselves and NC BEMO to a leadership role in fighting to restore the Voting Rights Act and voting rights protection. Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, President of (NC BEMO) echoed their sentiment and noted that he would ask them to take an organizational position similar to the one taken by the Caucus. He is projecting the week of August 17 for their action.
Also, as I’ve previously noted, the NC NAACP and Democracy NC are probably the leading entities that have organized opposition to voter suppression they could benefit from greater participation and community support. There are other organizations that are a part of the opposition to voter suppression but they are not nearly as visible as the NAACP and Democracy NC. Hopefully, we can coordinate their efforts in a way that compliments the efforts of Advance NC and end up with all the pieces that we need for our massive turnout efforts.
Another consensus outreach strategy is asking our religious community, fraternities, sororities and other organizations to hold voting rights forums at all of their upcoming events and to design voter rights engagement strategies that are customized to their specific organizational character and consistent with the position taken by the Caucus.
As always, we need as much input as possible if we’re going to be responsive to the needs and expectations of our communities. Now that we have a plan, we need you to help make it succeed. Please follow the evolution of our efforts going forward and join us as individuals and organizations.
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