Last week we reported on our first voter rights forum. This week we’ll consider our findings and ideas for addressing some of the issues they identified. I’m pleased that we have tentatively scheduled our second forum for January 9, 2016. At that forum we will be able to have public feedback on some of the suggestions made herein and in the future.
The point must be made that over the last 8 years our political landscaped has dramatically shifted to the detriment of Black voters. This shift in the landscape requires a shift in the way Black voters participate in politics. One of the most dramatic changes has been that significantly fewer Black elected officials face challenges to their re-election. That results in significantly fewer competitive re-election campaigns and thereby lower Black voter participation.
If this observation is valid, it is important that Black leaders develop strategies that will maintain or increase voter participation in this changed political environment. This will not be easy, but it is necessary.
Last week we reported on the extremely low voter participation in the recent municipal elections by college students. This lack of awareness and participation by our Black youth is very dangerous and totally unacceptable. Like addressing other issues that are detrimental to Black voters, the challenge of improving voter participation of our college students will also prove difficult. However, be that as it may, the issue must be addressed.
For a long time I’ve witnessed our elected officials gallantly fighting for resources for our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These efforts always imply a cooperative effort between our elected officials, our HBCUs and the “Divine Nine.” There are nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Collectively, these organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” I’ve found the level of cooperation between these groups to be woefully lacking.
For the record, I’m a member of one of the “Divine Nine” and the report of the lack of political participation on our HBCU campuses really saddens me. If fraternities and sororities are run today as they were when I was in college it seems to me at the very least the advisors of these organizations would have requirements for pledgees and protocols for campus chapters that result in a minimum level of political participation.
I have recently seen a book review on Book TV that I think every Black student and all of us as their mentors (educational and community) would be well served to see. It addresses a lesson that we seem to have forgotten. The title of the book is A White Southerner in the Civil Rights Movement: The Ed King Story. King, a native of Vicksburg and a Methodist minister, was a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a key figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. As one of the few white Mississippians with a leadership position in the movement, his words and photographs offer a rare behind-the-scenes chronicle of events in the state during Freedom Summer. (To watch the book review on You Tube see link No. 1below).
With the shift in our political landscape, our communities and leaders must find creative ways to protect and expand our voting rights. Since our forum I’ve been trying to find a “silver lining” in the dark cloud of voter participation and suppression. It has been difficult to find. However the good news from our forum is that we’ve identified problems that we can address with committed creative engagement. But, as is common with good news there is also bad news. Because we’re being called upon to apply new and creative ways to protect and expand our voting rights, much of what we do will have no history of success and therefore come the inherent need of trial and error. Because of this, time is and always has been of the essence.
Additional good news is that there is still a lot we can get done in the dwindling time we have left before the November 2016 General Elections. And of course, the bad news is that for other things that we should have done already, we’ve missed the boat.
The level of voter apathy, the lack of voter education and the pervasive efforts of voter suppression cannot be addressed with simple quick fix solutions. Also, as happens during every elections cycle, there was a lengthy discussion about what if anything could be done to get our church community better engaged in our voter protection and expansion efforts. Overall, the conclusion was that we have a lot of work to do and doing it will require a committed effort from all of us.
The core issue of our forum was what were we going to do to win a statewide election in November 2016? If we don’t win a key statewide election the priority issues of Black communities will be ignored in Raleigh. Below is a link to an article written shortly after this past General Election that should cause all of us to take more notice of the predicament that we’re facing. The title of the article is The Party’s Over: Kentucky Marks the End of the Democratic Party in the South. (See link No. 2 below).
The publications that are supporting our voter rights forums are The Fayetteville Press, The County News, The Carolina Times, The Winston-Salem Chronicle, The Carolina Peacemaker and Greater Diversity News. Please look to these publications for ongoing coverage as this project continues to evolve and share your ideas on what we can do to improve the project and our coverage.
Greater Diversity News sponsors www.TheThirdReconstruction.com and covers news that is vital to unrepresented and underserved communities. We need your financial support to help us remain viable. Visit http://greaterdiversity.com/support-greater-diversity-news.
Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News and www.thethirdreconstruction.com with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/ThirdReconstruction. Please “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com and www.thethirdreconstruction.com. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our pages.