On Sept. 23, 2020 we hosted our third event in our Rise Up for Justice online event series, this one focused on the issue of voter suppression, 55 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act where witnessing organized and systematic campaigns across the country to keep people from casting their ballots.
The event opened with LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter (BVM) Fund, singing a powerful rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Later during her remarks she explained the mission of BVM to expand the power of Black voters and to shift the “narrative of our power."
Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project, explained during the event that building political power in Black communities isn't confined to just protesting or voting. It requires both of those, and organizing.
Cliff Albright, 2020 Soros Equality Fellow and cofounder of Black Voters Matter Fund, encouraged viewers to look into http://vote.org to ensure that you are prepared and equipped to vote in the upcoming election, where hundreds of thousands of people could potentially be purged from voter rolls without their knowledge.
We can overcome voter suppression, Albright said, but "after election day, the battle doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a new cycle of the battle."
Brianna Brown, Deputy Director of the Texas Organizing Project, warned about the eviction crisis hitting her state, mostly affecting poor people of color. "We are beefing up our organizing ... to be able to keep people in their homes," she explained.
Gerald Lenoir, Identity and Politics Strategy Analyst at the Othering & Belonging Institute and event moderator, closed out the event with a powerful statement, saying: “We have the opportunity at this inflection point in history to bring about a new consciousness, a new way of thinking about human relationships, the role of government in ensuring that all of us belong, and a new conception of an economy and a healthcare system that works for all of us."
"The next hurdle towards the marathon that Nipsey Hussle rapped about is the 2020 elections," Lenoir said.
Get more more info about our Rise Up for Justice series at riseup4justice.org/
LaTosha Brown: (singing)
LaTosha Brown: Amen.
Gerald Lenoir: What a wonderful way to start the program. Thanks to LaTosha Brown for that uplifting, stirring rendition of the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. It is a song that was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, and set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson for Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1905.
Gerald Lenoir: In 1919, NAACP dubbed it the Negro National Anthem for its power invoicing, a cry for liberation and affirmation for African American people. The song is a prayer of Thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the promised land. It is featured in 39 different Christian hymnals, and is sung in churches across the United States and beyond.
Gerald Lenoir: Certainly, over the past few months, we have been lifting our voice to sing and shout, and lifting our fists and our feets in the streets to protest and March against structural and systemic racism and the knee that has been kept on necks for centuries.
Gerald Lenoir: My name is Gerald Lenoir, and I'm a strategy analyst at the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. The Othering & Belonging Institute brings together researchers, and organizers, stakeholders, and communicators and policy makers to identify and eliminate the barriers to an inclusive, just and sustainable society in order to create transformative change.
Gerald Lenoir: We are a diverse and vibrant hub generating work centered on realizing a world where all belong. Where belonging entails being respected at a level that includes the right to contribute and make demands upon society and political and cultural institutions.
Gerald Lenoir: We're very honored and exciting to have as co-sponsors of this event, the Black Voters Matter Fund. This event is a third in a series of live stream events initiated by the Othering & Belonging Institute, titled Rise Up for Justice, Black Lives and Our Collective Future.
Gerald Lenoir: It is providing space for cutting edge conversations among activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers, and other thought leaders to provide context and analysis on this transformative moment and to envision what comes next in the movement for racial justice.
Gerald Lenoir: The black led movement demanding police accountability and justice has galvanized anger, grief and frustration over the repeated killings of black men and women, both historically and in the present day. We just got the word that the grand jury has indicted only one officer in the Briana Taylor murder, and so we know that the struggle continues.
Gerald Lenoir: But this movement has also galvanized hope for a future rooted in true belong. People worldwide are participating in this pivotal moment, and will hopefully reshape not only our society's relationship with black communities, but also our collective future.
Gerald Lenoir: Today's theme is voter suppression and the fight to vote. 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the right to vote is being subverted by domestic and foreign actors, federal and state governments, counties and courts.
Gerald Lenoir: The fight to vote has taken on legal advocacy and grassroots organizing dimensions in many parts of the country. This rise up for justice live stream discussion brings together some of the strategists, organizers and lawyers that are on the front lines of the battle to ensure that everyone's vote counts and that every vote is counted. Thank you for joining us.
Gerald Lenoir: Now, I'd like to introduce one of the cofounders of Black Voters Matter Fund, who you just heard at the beginning of this program, LaTosha Brown. LaTosha, how you doing?
Gerald Lenoir: LaTosha a lot of award-winning visionary thought leader, institution builder, cultural activist, as we just heard, and connected. She is a nationally recognized go to expert in black voting rights and voter suppression, black women's empowerment and philanthropy. Her voice is the nexus between the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gerald Lenoir: LaTosha cofounded Black Voters Matter Fund and Black Voters Matter Fund Capacity Building Institute to boost voter registration and turnout in order to increase power to modularize predominately black communities. Welcome again, LaTosha. Good to see you.
LaTosha Brown: Thank you, for having me. I was look at that picture, and I was like, "Wow, that was 20 years ago."
Gerald Lenoir: Yeah. LaTosha and I met the summer of 2004, right LaTosha?
LaTosha Brown: The summer of 2004.
Gerald Lenoir: Yes. I temporarily relocated to Atlanta to take part in a voter protection initiative called Count Every Vote, that was organized by Linda Burnham, a good friend, and Keith Jennings. We have some very good members of that work and the work in seven Southern states, in training people how to monitor elections using international standards. It's good to be back in partnership with you, LaTosha.
LaTosha Brown: It is great to be back in partnership with you, as well. People may recall that came right after, it was really another effort to really be able to deal with voter suppression, that came right after the Bush/Gore debacle that happened in Florida.
LaTosha Brown: In response to that, we came together, led by Linda Burnham and Dr. Keith Jennings, I mean, he brought us together, he brought a team together, included Gerald and myself... which is, as you said, Gerald, how we met... to really be able to address that.
LaTosha Brown: That one of the things that we could do is, really be able to train people how to be election monitors, and that we would be election monitors. Instead of just passively allowing these elections to continue to be stolen, that there will be some voter protection, an added level of voter protection, and communities would be trained on what to do, and what to look for.
LaTosha Brown: We did that in seven states. We also did a lot of educating, flying around California, back and forth to California and other states, really talking about this issue. Gerald, as I think about that moment... this was in 2004, we're in 2020, we're 16 years later.
LaTosha Brown: As I think about this moment, even at that time, I thought that that was something related to the administration that was in. I don't know that I would have ever envisioned that we would be where we are right now. That it would not only not get a little bit better, but fundamentally it's actually gotten worse in many, many, many circumstances. Many ways.
Gerald Lenoir: How are you reading this historical junction in comparison to the past eras of voter suppression? What's similar and what's different, LaTosha, in your opinion?
LaTosha Brown: I think when the political landscape changes, everything changes. I think what has happened is that democracy was a cool concept, as long as there were those that were in power could see themselves maintaining that power.
LaTosha Brown: That once we see the browning of America, we know that America is slated by 2050 to be a majority non white country. I think that there are people who have literally maintained the white power base, and really for themselves, I think they've been exploitive to other white citizens, for their own power.
LaTosha Brown: But I think with that, I think that has changed the trajectory of the political landscape. I think what seeing is, we're seeing more aggressive behavior by those bad actors who really don't fundamentally believe in democracy, nor have they ever believed in democracy.
LaTosha Brown: I think it's been taken to scale. I think what we saw, and I think Gerald, that's what a lot of the work that we worked on, what we talked about, that I think on some level, people even thought it was a regional issue.
LaTosha Brown: I remember we were at one of the colleges in California talking about it and it just seemed unconscionable, some of the voter suppression pieces that we were raising, and look at where we are now.
LaTosha Brown: I think that there's a couple of things. I think one, there's a shift; because of the demographic shift, I think that there is a political shift. Even if I'm thinking about from the work in 2004 to even now. 2013, we had this landmark case, Shelby vs Holder, which was the stripping of the Voting Rights Act that took out pre-clearance clause.
LaTosha Brown: At least the basic protection mechanisms that were in the Voting Rights Act have been stripped out, so we know that. I think that that has changed the landscape, as well.
LaTosha Brown: The third thing I think that has changed the landscape, has been around, in this last election cycle, there's been a shift of who is the voting base. That the majority up until this election, this will be the first election that the baby boomers actually are not the largest constituency base. Now, they will probably vote the highest.
LaTosha Brown: But up until this time, because the baby boomers, because of their population, they just had a population advantage over all of the generations, including Generation X, which I find myself in, the baby boomers could dominate the political political landscape.
LaTosha Brown: Actually, young folks, from generation Z on down, really are the largest constituency base now. They've eclipsed the baby boomers. I think that that can have a significant change on the political landscape going forward. It was a question of how we engage that population, how that population is supported, and their leadership, as we go forward.
LaTosha Brown: Then I also think that things have come to a head. So much has happened, I think, just in the last decade. So much has come to a head. With having the first African American product president, on the surface, it was like that happened. But we're literally, there's never been black progress in this country and there's not been white backlash.
LaTosha Brown: I think we're all still dealing with the backlash of electing a black president. I think Trump came into power as a result of some other things. I think there's some social norms, political norms that we've been saying, there needs to be stronger protections.
LaTosha Brown: I think that some of that has been exposed; I think the fragility of democracy has been exposed. We're really in this interesting moment, Gerald, I think we're in a perfect storm.
LaTosha Brown: We've got this interesting moment, that all those things that America has hidden itself through as American exceptionalism, saying, "Oh no, that's not us. We're a democracy. Oh no, we're a wealthy, civilized country. Oh no, we have human rights. We're better than everybody else on that. No, we have a balance of power."
LaTosha Brown: We're literally seeing this, in real time, we're seeing the holes in that. We're seeing the unraveling.
Gerald Lenoir: Let me ask you this. What do you think the impact then, of this massive Black Lives Matter movement is having on voting, particularly among black folks, but across the spectrum of communities?
LaTosha Brown: What's really interesting is, that if we look at in the last few months, there were uprisings related to the Black Lives Matter movement in all 50 states. The character that movement though, was astounding. It was multi racial. It was multi generational in all 50 states.
LaTosha Brown: We have never seen, there's never been an uprising on that level and that scale that has been documented in this country. That in itself says something. That says that, that movement has set root.
LaTosha Brown: We didn't just see it in America, that even as people were protesting here, we saw a protest from Hong Kong, to England, to the Caribbean to France, all across, standing in solidarity.
LaTosha Brown: What I think the Black Lives Matter movement has done is, I think there's a shaping of literally, as pulling the covers back and the curtains back, and saying, "No, we're not just going to step over this."
LaTosha Brown: That, we're not going to just step over racial injustice, but we're committed in the long haul that just in standing in the space, that we have got to fundamentally face racism in this country.
LaTosha Brown: I don't know if we've had a sustained movement in this country to really be able to be that focused, in some senses, around this notion of anti-black racism. Literally calling it, naming it and organizing it around it.
Gerald Lenoir: Yeah. Talk a little bit about what's going on in Georgia, because we know that Georgia's one of the ground zero places for voter suppression. So, talk about what's going on and-
LaTosha Brown: That wold be a whole session, itself. I'm going to see if I can change.... the internet service is really bad. It seems like it's really choppy here, so I apologize.
Gerald Lenoir: No, you're coming along fine. You sound good.
LaTosha Brown: Okay. Okay. Georgia is a whole, just hot mess. I don't have any other way to say it, Gerald. That recently, we just had a press conference on yesterday. Cliff and I, because we are partnering with Greg Palace, who delivered a report to the ACLU about a week ago.
LaTosha Brown: Yesterday, we had a press conference really talking about this report, where there are 200,000 voters right now... and I'm going to talk about voter suppression, but let me tell you what we're facing right now.
LaTosha Brown: There are 200,000 voters right now that have been dropped off the voting rolls, that should have never been dropped off of the road voting rolls. And it gets better, the story gets better.
LaTosha Brown: In October of 2019, the Secretary of State, Raffensperger, actually dropped these, it was over 300,000, 320,000 voters, saying that they no longer had valid addresses. As a result, he was kicking them off the voting rolls.
LaTosha Brown: When there was a investigative journalist, Greg Palace, along with a body of experts who do data analysis, they do data mining and they do data hygiene; work for major companies like Amazon, and Apple and those companies, that really like depend on having good clean data. That he hired, and brought those experts in.
LaTosha Brown: They looked at the data, and immediately found something was wrong. The first thing that they noticed there was 60,000 names that just didn't make sense. They couldn't understand where the information was coming from, that there were bad addresses. Because they actually were using over 200 different sources to check these addresses.
LaTosha Brown: What they came back with is, that when you look at what was certified, that those addresses never should have been kicked off. There was like 60,000, which led them to even look a little deeper. Fundamentally, they ran the test twice.
LaTosha Brown: They did a complete like data hygiene, which like I said, large companies do and pay millions of dollars for it to make sure that they get the most updated and clean data.
LaTosha Brown: They discovered that it was 198,000... I can't remember the exact number, but close to... people who are on that list that fundamentally should not never been dropped. That there's no evidence that they had moved, or any evidence that they were not still there.
LaTosha Brown: Matter of fact, they even called some of them. They called some of the folks that were there, to see, and it was like, "No, I've never moved." So, they were trying to figure out what, how did you all get on this list?
LaTosha Brown: Ultimately, in the national Voting Rights Act requires that you have a licensee. That if you're going to drop people from the voting rolls, that one of the things that you need to do is have a licensee that works with the worked for the United States Postal Service.
LaTosha Brown: They have a licensee, a third party, who actually does data hygiene to make sure that the data is clean and updated. By law, you're supposed to have that, so that you're not just going by a change of address, because that may or may not be accurate. But you have the most accurate list.
LaTosha Brown: All up until yesterday, the assumption was that the secretary of state just didn't want to release who his licensee was. It was, our experts would sit down with his experts to figure out how could it be so wrong? Like 200,000 people, that's a medium sized city in America. How could it be so wrong?
LaTosha Brown: It was discovered yesterday in an interview with CNN, that the secretary of state admitted to CNN reporter that they didn't have a licensee. Not only is it illegal that they dropped the 200,000 people, he didn't even follow the basic protocol of what the National Voting Rights Act says, that he has to do.
LaTosha Brown: There's never been a licensee, I'm actually an utter shock. In some ways I'm not, but in some ways I am. In Georgia, right now, we're having 2000 people that we're demanding on the voting rolls right now, that never should have been taken off in the first place.
LaTosha Brown: But then, even if he was going to take them off, he didn't even go through the process that is dictated by law to make sure to justify taking them off. And that's just what we're seeing, an abuse of power.
LaTosha Brown: That's 2019. But what we can do is we can go back from 2018, we can even come forward here, where we're talking about standing in lines, we're going to talk to the massive closing of polling sites. Where we're talking about, in terms of registrations, that many of the registration... The Brennan Center had a report that came out about two months ago. They talked about those states, who were covered in the Voting Rights Act.
LaTosha Brown: When you look at those states and you look at the national average of people who have been dropped from the voting rolls, that the states that would have been covered by the Voting Rights Act on the pre-clearance clause, had been covered by the pre-clearance clause, that is a 40% rate higher than the national average in those states.
LaTosha Brown: Something is happening, that is almost 50% different than the rest of the states, after the Voting Rights Act. In addition to that, we're also seeing in Wisconsin, on this coming Tuesday, there is a 129,000 voters, the majority of them are African Americans and students, that will be dropped from the voting rolls.
LaTosha Brown: Actually the state, which is a democratic administration in an office right now, the state does not want to drop those voters.
LaTosha Brown: But the Republican administration, right before they went out of office this last election cycle, there's a group called WHEEL, this legislative body that's really a Republican special interest group, decided that they are pushing to force the current government to strike off 129,000 people, majority African Americans and students, before this election cycle. The state government itself is actually fighting to keep those people on the roll.
LaTosha Brown: When we're talking about voter suppression, we're fighting that issue on every single level. We really have to recognize how egregious what is happening right before our eyes, where there is an unraveling of democracy.
Gerald Lenoir: Let me see if there's any questions from folks that are tuning into us. Do we have any questions from the viewers? If not, we can go to further talk to you about what you're doing about all that. I know you're operating in, not just Georgia, but several other states. Can you talk about your work across the South, and other states that you're working in?
LaTosha Brown: Yes. In 2016, when Cliff and I started Black Voters Matter, one of the things that we were committed to is helping to build the capacity of black led grassroot groups, all around the South in particular.
LaTosha Brown: What you're looking at right now is, what we call the Blackest Bus in America. Matter of fact, the photo that you all see that's popped up now is actually from Kentucky, it's from Louisville, Kentucky.
LaTosha Brown: We worked this last election cycle there, where in a County, that's another interesting space, that in a county where 50% of the black population live in that area, what we saw is, normally the counties there's 370 polling sites. This last election cycle, there was one. One polling site to service 612,000 people.
LaTosha Brown: We see this everywhere we go, these kinds of egregious acts. What we've decided to do, and why we created the organization, was to help build the capacity of black led grassroots groups all around the country.
LaTosha Brown: We're working in 11 states, that with our Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, what we do is, we provide resources directly to black led groups that are doing power building work on the ground. The resources come in the form of grants and money directly.
LaTosha Brown: Also, in terms of tools from text messaging to phone banking tools. Also, in terms of helping them from materials. As you see, from church fans, to t-shirts to flyers. Everything that a campaign would provide, so that there's an identity, that as people are doing work, that people can connect to that message.
LaTosha Brown: And we do a lot of work around narrative ship, because we think it's really important around the narrative of who blocked black voters are, what it is that we want, and literally shifting the narrative of our power.
LaTosha Brown: So, we run campaigns really, to be able to galvanize communities around tapping into their own power and building out an agenda that is really local, and in that local community. Instead of every four years when there's a presidential election, what we know is, that when you really feel power is at the bottom.
LaTosha Brown: It's hard to get people excited about the presidential election, when they've lost control of their school board, or their county commissioner or their mayor's office.
LaTosha Brown: Our work is really rooted in helping to build local power, be able to build out the ecosystem of groups that are doing this work, so that we can have greater impact on the local, state and the national level.
Gerald Lenoir: LaTosha Brown, thank you so much for this conversation. I know you're going to rejoin us a little later, so I want to say your body now and we'll talk later. We're going to bring in the other panelists to have a broader discussion about voter suppression.
Gerald Lenoir: In just a minute, we'll be joined by Cliff Albright from Black Voters Matter Fund, Judith Browne Dianis from Advancement Project, Brianna Brown from Texas Organizing Project and Desmond Meade from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
Gerald Lenoir: All are doing work around voter suppression in different states and nationally, and organizing to make sure that this vote is not suppressed in any of our communities.
Gerald Lenoir: Cliff Albright is one of the cofounders of Black Voters Matter Fund, and he has led 13 primarily Southern states in the Blackest Bus in America that we saw the video of, energizing voters and exposing voter suppression. He hosts a weekly radio show in Atlanta, and he has served as an instructor of African American studies at several universities.
Gerald Lenoir: Cliff previously lived in historic Selma, Alabama, where he focused on bringing financial resources to Alabama's Black Welcome, Cliff.
Gerald Lenoir: We also have Judith Browne Dianis, the executive director of the Advancement Project National Office. Judith has served as a lawyer, professor and civil rights advocate for more than two decades in the movement for racial justice.
Gerald Lenoir: Hailed as a voting rights expert and pioneer and the movement to dismantle the school to prison pipeline, Judith leads the Advancement Project National Office in combating structural racism in education, voting, policing, criminal justice and immigration. Welcome, Judith.
Gerald Lenoir: We have Brianna Brown. Brianna is the deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project, with more than a decade of experience working in the social justice movements on issues ranging from ex-offender re-enfranchisement to immigration reform.
Gerald Lenoir: Brianna focuses on building a bomb staff and membership that centralizes the experience of black folks and Latinos, as deputy director of the largest grassroots community based organization in Texas.
Gerald Lenoir: She is a proud fourth generation Texas and founding board member of the African American Center on Global Politics and Human Rights. Welcome, Brianna.
Gerald Lenoir: Finally, we have Desmond Meade, the executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. As a formerly homeless returning citizen, and now executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, he has led a historic victory in 2018 with the passage of amendment four, restoring voting rights over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions.
Gerald Lenoir: I don't know if Desmond is with us yet, he had a press conference, but he will be joining us soon. We can start and he can join us.
Gerald Lenoir: A question to our panelists... can we bring up all the panelists.
Gerald Lenoir: Maybe we can ask these panelists one by one until Desmond comes. Here we go. Thank you.
Gerald Lenoir: Just to start off, how are you all reading the Black Lives Matter movements in the streets, and the impact on the consciousness of black folk not only to protest racism and white supremacy, but to show up at the ballot box? You want to take that, Judith?
Judith Browne Dianis: Sure. Well, first thank you for having me. It's good to be here with some incredible people, because I needed to be with incredible people right now because we are hurting.
Judith Browne Dianis: I think that we have to connect to the moment that we are in to November 3rd, for several reasons is that, we know that building political power in black communities doesn't just start with protesting nor does it start with the ballot box.
Judith Browne Dianis: It is that we have to organize, we have to protest and we have to vote. And that we have to connect the dots. Today, we are grieving again, another insult and injury to black people, in the grand jury decision in Louisville around the murder, Briana Taylor.
Judith Browne Dianis: Something that we should have predicted, because this system continues to show us that black lives do not matter to the system, and that the system was built this way. But the thing that we also have to know is, that we have been making wins.
Judith Browne Dianis: So this moment that we're in, and young people taking to the streets, and not so young people, and our elders taking to the streets has given us some wins. We're having a different conversation.
Judith Browne Dianis: We're winning some policies, we're getting police departments, not fully defunded, but we're getting cuts in budgets and more money put into our communities. We're seeing movements win on police-free schools around the work, like that Advancement Project is in.
Judith Browne Dianis: We know that we have to connect what our community needs, and our lives and our ability to build power, and connect that to November 3rd. Because on November 3rd, not only is there a presidential race, but there are sheriff's races.
Judith Browne Dianis: In Georgia, for example, there are more than 150 sheriff's races in the state of Georgia. In Florida, there are 66 sheriff's races. It's our opportunity to use voting as a tactic, to be able to build and hold our power so that we can see the change that we want.
Judith Browne Dianis: The radical transformation that we need in this criminal legal system starts with us, and it moves through November. But then we don't end there, we got to keep doing the work.
Gerald Lenoir: Yes, we do. Yes, we do. Cliff, what are you thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact on your work?
Cliff Albright: Yeah, just really want to start off just by echoing everything Judith said, including thanking you for organizing this and putting together such a great panel. I'm always glad to be on with some old friends and new friends, that are doing amazing work.
Cliff Albright: But, yeah. I just want to echo everything that Judith said. We don't even have to really speculate about what the potential impact will be, because we've already seen it. We've already seen record turnout.
Cliff Albright: In just about every state that has had primaries taking place, ever since the movement started, the protests started, we're seeing record turnout in Kentucky, in Michigan, in Georgia. We're seeing record turnout in states, after the presidential primary really was no longer a contested primary.
Cliff Albright: We're seeing record turnout in states, even where there's really no statewide... you look at the state of Michigan, there was really no competitive statewide race. And yet, we still see record turnout. We're already seeing what the impact of this is. Some of that is record turnout, energy that just comes from four years of fascism.
Cliff Albright: But some of that is record turnout that's coming directly related to the energy that we've seen in the streets, because of the movement around police violence and the movement for black lives.
Cliff Albright: Even when you look at some of the surveys that have been done, when they've talked to predominantly younger voters, or others who have been involved in protests, when they go to folks that have been involved in these protests and ask them, "Are you now more likely to vote," you're seeing in all of these polls, across the board, that the answer is yes.
Cliff Albright: You're seeing all of this energy that has already shown up, not just showing up in city council meetings and getting somebody city councils and board of educations to start doing some of these policies, but you're seeing it at the polling place. We believe that we're just going to continue to see it between now and November.
Cliff Albright: Now, none of that is automatic, right? That's the result of work. Work of protesters, work of organizations that are usually in the electrical space that have found ways to really merge these two worlds. There's this merger of the protest politics and the electoral politics. Those two things have to go together.
Cliff Albright: The truth is, when we've been at our best, those things have always gone together. We've always used the combination of strategies of protest and electoral, of protesting and legal. I tell people all the time, I used to live in Selma along with LaTosha; used to live in Selma, Alabama.
Cliff Albright: We didn't vote for the Voting Rights Act in Selma. We had to protest to lead to that historic act. So, these two strategies have always gone together. This is nothing new. We have to put that in that proper historical context, and then we have to add on what our contribution to that mix is going to be in this moment that we're in right now.
Cliff Albright: I'm incredibly optimistic about the energy and the turnout that we're seeing. The only thing that could potentially hold it back is this issue that we've been talking about, which is this issue of voter suppression, in all of its forms and shapes.
Gerald Lenoir: I hear that, brother. Brianna, what's going on on the ground in Texas.
Brianna Brown: Yeah. I'm going to be an echos echo. We're the largest grassroots organization in Texas, that is doing exactly what folks have already talked about, which is this kind of inhale and exhale. Organizing in the streets 24/7, and then matching that with electoral might.
Brianna Brown: This year, we're talking to record number of 1.6 million voters of color, mostly black and Latino. The goal is to have really good organizing conversations with folks, so that yes, you're inspired to vote in this election. And to the point that I've heard, and I just want to take a highlighter out on, to inspire action after the election is over.
Brianna Brown: In Texas, I think it becomes surprising to some folks to learn that we're home to the second largest black population in the country. We got 3.6 million black folks driving the culture here. We're home to the second largest black registered voters in the country, right behind our friends in Georgia. We got 1.8 million black folks that are registered to vote. We have another 700,000 of us who are eligible, but not registered to vote.
Brianna Brown: I think that conversations about, how are we collectively moving towards a vision of black liberation? You can't have that conversation without talking about Texas. I'm a blend of, being really optimistic, in part because the proof has been in the pudding in some elections that we've had so far. We've had record turnout, even here in Texas during the primaries.
Brianna Brown: What disheartens me, I'm based in Dallas County, and the city of Dallas is soon to take a vote on our campaign around defunding the police. We called for $200 million to be slashed. We had 100 people testifying over Zoom, we had people in the streets, 100 days of protest, and those calls have really fallen on deaf ears. That locally, we haven't built the kind of power on the city council and the movement outside agitating, that we can really impact and make sure that policies are materially impacting our lives.
Brianna Brown: To me, if there's a cautionary note about, yes, we got to get folks energized and inspired to vote. To me, it's not coincidental that some of us opt out of voting, because we're not courted to vote. And then there's these questions of how we've been structurally disenfranchised.
Brianna Brown: So, we absolutely have to do that work and we absolutely have to continue to make investment in that power building infrastructure that LaTosha talked about, to make sure that the day after the election, that we are ready to go with an agenda, and we're not going anywhere.
Gerald Lenoir: Definitely not going anywhere. Cliff, what's going on? You had a question for the panel. Are you queued up to co-moderate with us?
Cliff Albright: Yep.
Gerald Lenoir: Go for it.
Cliff Albright: Yeah. I think the question would be, we've seen all the stories around vote by mail. That's the elephant in the room. We're in the midst of this pandemic, we got an election that's going to be largely be by mail.
Cliff Albright: We know that the person in the White House has been attacking the postal service, attacking the very concept of voting by mail. We know that he's got a cronie running the postal system. We've seen all the stories about delays. What do you all think is going to be the impact of these attacks on vote by mail, and what kind of strategies do we need to be considering to counter those attacks? And I'll start with-- Yeah. Go on, Judith.
Judith Browne Dianis: Yeah. I was just going to say, all good questions Cliff. You know that. This is part of the game. Every election cycle, we see new tactics around voter suppression, and one of the tactics that's always used is disinformation and misinformation. Those who don't want black and brown people to vote because they want to maintain power, do come up with these kinds of myths.
Judith Browne Dianis: Like we were fighting the voter fraud myth in 2011 and 2012, and in part that was because if they could create that, then they could have the basis for requiring voter ID, knowing that black and brown people did not have access to voter ID like white folks do.
Judith Browne Dianis: Here we are, fast forward to 2020, and this whole issue around vote by mail. Now, vote by mail has worked for a long time for a lot of people who use absentee ballots. It works for our people in military, people who live overseas. It worked for Trump himself, as he votes by mail from DC.
Judith Browne Dianis: This is really a tactic, and so I would say this. Is that, it is a tactic of misinformation. But I also wanted people to know that there are concerns, when you go that extra step of not only the disinformation, but then actually try to dismantle the United States Postal Service so that it becomes a tool of voter suppression, we've got another game on our hands.
Judith Browne Dianis: I would say that what's really important is, that voters know the rules of the road. Understand, make a plan for voting. That for those who cannot show up at a polling place, because poling place, it's not just election day, but it's the early voting period. So, we need to stretch out our people, make sure they're showing up for the early voting if they can.
Judith Browne Dianis: But the thing is, no one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. And so, if you have to vote by mail or do an absentee ballot, get your ballot in the mail, many states are allowing for drop-off boxes. So, if you don't feel comfortable putting in the mail, because you need to put in the mail far enough in advance. Make sure that joker gets there, watch them do the postmark if you can, put it in the mail.
Judith Browne Dianis: But then the other thing is, to follow up. If you do vote by mail, you have to follow up. Track your ballot, make sure that it gets counted. If there's a problem, there's actually a period of time where you can fix the problem. It's usually three days in most states.
Judith Browne Dianis: But the other thing is, that you should make sure that if you can show up at the polls, and if that's what you really want to do, that you do that. If you have vote by mail, many states have drop-off boxes. They're putting them all over the place, some of them just at election officials' offices.
Judith Browne Dianis: Just make a plan, know the way that you feel most comfortable with voting, but don't put yourself at risk.
Cliff Albright: Brianna, any thoughts for you? What are you all seeing there? I know here, in Georgia, we've already seen, I think the last count we had was 1.1 million folks that have already requested a ballot, faster than the pace we were on for our primary. What are you all seeing there, in Texas?
Brianna Brown: Well, when LaTosha described what's going on in Georgia with voter suppression as a hot mess, I just wanted to amen that because in Texas there is a buffet of hot messiness that you can choose from when it comes to voter suppression.
Brianna Brown: We are one of six states in the nation that has refused, even before pandemic, just as another structural tactic to keep us from voting, has refused to expand vote by mail or any kind of remote voting options.
Brianna Brown: Recently, we were part of an organizing effort in Harris County, in Houston, Harris County is where Houston is, to get that County Commissioners Court to send a vote by mail application to all eligible voters in Harris County. Harris County has 2.5 million eligible voters. That was following a decision by a federal court that said, that if people had the agency to make a claim around disability, if they felt vulnerable going to the polls due to COVID.
Brianna Brown: Really, our Commissioners Court in Harris County that we fought to make sure we had a progressive Commissioners Court there, that we had the votes we needed in order to win these kind of flagged material policies, voted to make sure that everyone, those 2.5 million people could get access to do a ballot.
Brianna Brown: Then we have our attorney general come in, Attorney General P.S. that is, been under indictment for the last five years and hasn't quite made it to trial yet, sue Harris County. And so, they retracted that and just said that they were going to send vote by mail ballots to folks who were 65 and older, which is just what had been the course previously.
Brianna Brown: Part of telling that story is, one of the necessity, again, that the ballot box is not the panacea, and really figuring out what is the agenda that we have post-game to figure out what is the prescription we need so that we can not only participate at the ballot box to do this point, to do it in a way that we can protect ourselves, stay alive? But then, how do we continue real engagement post-election?
Brianna Brown: That's a critical question for us as organizers that are doing this inhale and exhale of mobilizing people in the streets every day of the year, and then also inspiring folks to the ballot box.
Gerald Lenoir: Yeah. I have a couple of questions from people who are viewing this. Mad Mark asks, "What advice do you have for people who are worried that they might have been purged from voter rolls?" And then, Mia Brooks asks, "How can we get more involved on community engagement level? Where to get the funds from?"
Judith Browne Dianis: I'll take the little part, I mean the purge question. Because purging, it ain't too little. Because we know that hundreds of thousands of people have been taken off the rolls through purging, and really aggressive purging practices, by election officials.
Judith Browne Dianis: What we suggest is, that as we're registering people and saying, "You need to register," that those of us who are registered, you need to check your status. Because we know that too many people will show up to the polls, and let's say you haven't voted in two elections, that your name may not be there. Or that you've moved, you moved from one state to another. Or, I mean, there's trickery that happens too.
Judith Browne Dianis: And so, check your voter registration status. Ain't none of us are safe from voter suppression. That is something that you should do by going on your secretary of state's website or your County board of elections to just check your status, to make sure that you are still on the rolls and active.
Gerald Lenoir: And the second question, about how to get engaged on the grassroots level.
Brianna Brown: Oh, my god. Oh, I got really excited when I heard that. I don't know if you were about to dish it somewhere, but I'm just want to, there is such an amazing network of organizations across this country that are doing this kind of power building. If you are in Texas, you should come to Texas Organizing Project.
Brianna Brown: But there are so many organizations that are... one of the things that LaTosha was saying was, really funding black led organizing that's going on the ground. I think it's been really interesting since the uprisings. One way I think about them is, is it's as a Vicks VapoRub. There's a different kind of openness, and people are trying to figure out where is it that they can plug in?
Brianna Brown: Yes, we got a vote and literally, wherever you are, whatever state you live in, I mean, I will put my email address up for you to email me and I will get you connected to the really bomb organizing that is going on in your state. Because there is such a rich and beautiful network that is doing this work, that's coordinated, that's strategic, and doesn't work unless there are folks that are driving the work. That's the fuel.
Gerald Lenoir: Also on that point, if you go to Rise Up for Justice to number four, RiseUpForJustice.org, there is a list of resources that include groups across the country that are doing work around voter engagement, voter suppression, get out to vote. Cliff, you had something else to add?
Cliff Albright: Yeah, I was going to cheat a little bit, use the little co-moderator privilege. On both of those questions, on the first one, you can go to sites like vote.org. Or even like our organization, we have a page that's actually using vote.org tools, so that you can get registered, check your registration status, even request your vote by mail ballot.
Cliff Albright: I would say, take a look at groups or sites like vote.org or a page like VotersMatterFunds.org/vote. And you have those links right there. Of course, you could always go to your own state, your secretary of state's page or whatever it is. But just in terms of like having one generic page that you can go to, those a couple of resources.
Cliff Albright: And then on the second question, of how groups can get some of this funding. One other thing that we heard over the past past few days ever since Justice Ginsburg died, about the increase in funding that's been going to some of these candidates or going to the Democratic party, part of the answer definitely look at the resources, the page that Gerald mentioned, definitely get in touch with organizations like Texas Organizing Project.
Cliff Albright: Part of the reason we created Black Voters Matter Fund was, so that we can help deal with this issue. We literally created this organization, so that we could get resources to folks on the ground that are doing this incredible work, at least in the target states where we do our work.
Cliff Albright: But the other thing is this, you can go to some of these institutions, you can go to the party, you can, you can even demand of candidates that they release some of this funding. Because there's nothing worse. They're just putting a whole lot of new money, millions and millions of dollars into campaigns that are going to run bad strategy.
Cliff Albright: Then it's just going to be running more television commercials, that nobody's really going to pay attention to. Particularly, the voters that you really got to reach out to. But you got folks on the ground that know how to get this work done, and know how to reach the folks that we're trying to reach.
Cliff Albright: We can demand from some of the places that have these resources that they free it up, because they're not going to do right by it anyway. So, get rid of it, give it to us. Give it to the local groups, give it to the neighborhood association. Give it to whoever, give it to TOP. We can make that demand of them, to literally help them, to save them from themselves.
Judith Browne Dianis: I just wanted to add, just on the resources, that you can also come to AdvanceAProject.org, we do have resources that are really for organizations to take and run with, that are information about how vote by mail will work in particular states. We also have information like messaging, et cetera, that we have tested through polling and focus groups. There are resources that are available to organizations, to just plug and play and keep running with it.
Gerald Lenoir: Thank you for that. I want to ask the question about your strategies and tactics. How are you, both in the organizing and the legal realms, dealing with voter suppression and getting out the vote.
Gerald Lenoir: Also, how are you dealing with trying to bridge the social and political differences and divides between different racial groups, particularly with black and Latinx communities, black and white communities, black women/white women. What is your organizing strategies and your legal strategies for get out the vote in for countering voter suppression? Cliff, what do you think? What's up?
Cliff Albright: Yeah. We're trying a bunch of different strategies. One of the strategies that we use is what LaTosha talked about earlier is, even just in terms of our presence, and going around and doing our bus tours in the Blackest Bus in America. Which I don't know if she mentioned it is no longer just the Blackest Bus in America, now it's the Blackest Fleet in America, because we've added a whole bunch of what we call baby buses to the fleet. These 15 passenger vans, that are going to be roaming around within the states where we do our work, the 10 states where we do our work.
Cliff Albright: But that comes out of, it's not just about the energy and the excitement and the motivation, it's also very practical. Because we're trying to find ways to get some of the same context, to share some of the same information, to do some of the same souls to the polls and things of that nature, but being able to do it in a way that's more socially distant.
To be able to even do big rallies, like we're hoping to do some big events, even around some of the debates that are coming up, but even being able to do, and we've done a few of these, like these parking lot programs. Where you got dozens or hundreds of cars in a parking lot, almost like a drive-in theater.
Where you're able to like watch some informational videos and tutorials, some influencers or watch a presidential debate or something like that. But being able to do it in a way that's socially distant and safe, but you're still able to feel each other's energy. You're still able to share information. You're still able to use QR codes. Our buses and bands have QR codes on it, that'll take people directly to the pages where they can go to register to vote or request their vote by mail.
Cliff Albright: This overall strategy, we're calling it our We Got Power Campaign. This overall caravan and bus, and mobile strategy, as a way of both energizing folks, but also sharing necessary information. And literally, taking people to the polling places, as Judith said. Going down to the board of elections and casting your ballot.
Cliff Albright: What most people are afraid of isn't so much the mail system and getting their ballot. What most people are afraid of is, after I get it, and after I fill it out and I put it in the mail, they're staring at the mailbox like, "Ooh, do I let it go? Because once I let it go, I don't know what's going to happen."
Cliff Albright: What we're trying to let people know is, we got power. In most of these states, you don't have to even return it by mail. In most states, I know Tennessee is an exception, I'm not sure if there's other ones, Tennessee, they force you. If you get it by mail, you got to return it by mail. But in most states, you could actually go in and walk it in, or drive it in. So, we're using these caravans even, as a mechanism for having folks be able to do that.
Cliff Albright: Those are some of the ways that we're we're... and all of that goes towards fighting against the suppression, the attacks against the mail. The caravans even play a role in just letting people know that you're not alone.
Cliff Albright: Because when you, when you see one of these big old buses or vans rolling through, you best believe that if there's some suppression going on, we're going to find it, we're going to expose it, we're going to talk about it in the national media and we're going to do videos on it. Because that's the part of how this suppression thrives. It thrives in the darkness.
Cliff Albright: We have a belief that if we show up, if we're in the right places where this takes place, and we show up and we expose it, and we let people know that they're not alone and we're not isolated, that's another way that we're trying to fight the suppression.
Gerald Lenoir: Yes. Brianna, what's happening with TOP? What strategies use the tactics when you all using?
Brianna Brown: Well, one of the things that we're always very conscientious of is, to some of the points that have been made before the necessity to be power building on the ground and institution building on the ground. Our whole organization doesn't get consumed by the election, or the election, a election; we maintain our organizing.
Brianna Brown: I mentioned before, in Dallas today, we're gearing up for a vote with the city council. We asked for 200 million from the police budget, it looks like they're going to do seven. With the new folks that we're engaging on these defund campaigns, we're having a twin conversation with them. We're talking about the issues, and we're talking about how to link those issues to the ballot box. But organizing is the start of that conversation.
Brianna Brown: In Harris County and in Bear County where San Antonio is, we've been participating in some amazing direct actions to save people from getting evicted. The story around evictions that's going to be unfolding, unraveling in the next coming months is tragic, and going to hit folks of color, black and Latinos in particular, in Texas in a way that we've never seen.
Brianna Brown: We are beefing up our organizing, in order to be able to to catch and hold those communities and continue to fight and keep people in their homes. One of the tactics that we always use every year is, to figure out how do we maintain organizing, first and foremost? Like I said before, we're running the biggest independent get out the vote program in Texas this year, 1.6 million black and Latino folks.
Brianna Brown: The way that we do that, we have a family of organizations, our sisters organizations are going to be responsible for the program. We're going to be employing a lot of people. We make sure that those folks that are coming to us for a good paying job, that has paid sick leave, are also getting some political education.
Brianna Brown: Because I think that that's an opportunity to figure out how... we have these people for three month time period, not just to do the hard and critical work of moving folks to the polls. But can these folks become part of the crew? Can they be throwing down with us the day after the election? We're also thinking about, how can these elections and the folks are coming to us in the elections be a part of the longterm organizing plan.
Brianna Brown: I was talking with one of our board members Tangie, she called me up the other day and she was like, "Our voters are going to be in a real pickle." Remember the lines from the primaries in March, that were wrapped around polling locations? She said, "We got to do something about it."
Brianna Brown: She had this brilliant idea around, can we be doing some of the sending out safe voter kits? Folks are going to be coming directly from work. Is there a respite we can provide for parents for their kids? Can we keep people excited and joyful while they're in line, waiting to vote?
Brianna Brown: Our members are excited to be throwing down around a program that helps people kind of smooth the edges of that day, where you got to go... or the days to do this point. It's not just a day. We got a period of early voting, we want to make sure that we're taking advantage of. So, we're doing some of that work too.
Brianna Brown: Then the last thing, that I think that's really cool that we're doing, is partnering with Black Citizenship in Action, part of BlackPac, to talk with black folks across Texas about black citizenship and how we got here. So that people kind of feel the ancestors behind them, in the moments that's in front of us at the ballot box this year.
Brianna Brown: Those are some of the things that we're doing this year, again, to inspire folks to the polls.
Gerald Lenoir: Right on.
Judith Browne Dianis: Yeah.
Gerald Lenoir: Judith, you have the last word. I'm afraid we're running out of time, and so we'd like to hear from you.
Judith Browne Dianis: Sure. Just quickly, at Advancement Project, we do focus on the before the election, because we know that local election officials make decisions that can impact the outcomes. So, we've been doing meetings with local election officials with our partners on the ground, to make sure that voter suppression is not being put in place before the election.
Judith Browne Dianis: The other thing that we are doing is, that we're creating materials for the groups that do GOTV and civic engagement on the rules of the road, around how to vote, whether it's vote by mail or in-person voting so they can give that out to voters.
Judith Browne Dianis: Lastly, is that we are doing a social media campaign targeted at 18 to 24 year olds. We did public opinion research of black, Latinx, indigenous and Asian 18 to 24 year olds. The things that they cared about across the board, COVID was number one, and number two was racial justice and policing. So, we are going to be focusing on creating content that can be used to target 18 to 24 year olds, because we know that we're finding unity within that group across racial lines.
Gerald Lenoir: Thank you so much, Judith, Brianna, Cliff. We appreciate your remarks. We're going to move into the next section with Cliff and LaTosha, talking about the way forward.
Judith Browne Dianis: Thank you.
Judith Browne Dianis: (silence)
Cliff Albright: Is LaTosha back with us?
Cliff Albright: I'll go ahead and get started, you all, since we're talking about the way forward. The way forward is really about, it's about us. That's what we always say, that's what we have on the back of our shirts, and our push cards and our materials.
Cliff Albright: In spite of everything that we're going through, that we've been through this year, this year from hell, right? In spite of coronavirus, in spite of the police violence, and including today's decision, remarkable and yet not surprising decision, in spite of all of this, at the end of the day, we still have power. We got power. We got the power to deal with all these issues. We got power to deal with the attacks on the postal system. We got power to deal with the failures of this coronavirus.
Cliff Albright: We've been blessed enough to work with and support organizations all around this country, that have been doing mutual aid programs in order to deal the gaps in the coronavirus response, that those that are supposed to have our best interests at heart, and having dealt with. And som on all of these issues, the recurring theme is that we got power.
Cliff Albright: We got power to deal with this voter suppression. We've got powers, Judith said, to get engaged, to engage with these election official, officials that are making decisions over issues like, are there going to be drop-boxes or will there not? What are the hours going to be for in-person voting or early voting? Some of these decisions have been made already, but some of these decisions are still yet to be made and we've got power to impact a lot of those decisions.
Cliff Albright: We've got power to decide in what ways we're going to provide the support and the relief for folks who, for whatever reason, are not able to vote by mail or early vote, or maybe just don't want to. Because we've got that in our community. We got the tradition, the incredible tradition of folks that want to go vote in-person, that they want to go vote with their parents or with their children.
Cliff Albright: We've got that traditional folks who remember, especially elderly folks, who remember when they or their parents couldn't cast that vote and go in person. So, it's a routine, it's a ritual, it's a tradition that people hold very near and dear. So, there are going to be some folks who can't early vote or vote by mail, and then there could be some folks that choose to wait and go in person.
Cliff Albright: But whatever the case is, we got power to make sure that our folks that are able to do that safely. That they're not risking their lives, that they do it. That we have access and we're giving out masks, or we're giving out sanitizer, or we're doing the other things that we're doing, helping to keep people socially distant. We got power to do that.
Cliff Albright: We got power to make sure that those lines aren't long, by making sure that we've got enough poll workers. Because that's also a part of the problem, that's also a part of this question. That in the midst of this pandemic, that poll workers, who usually are the older members of our communities, but for obvious reasons they're not going to be able to be poll workers.
Cliff Albright: We've already seen that happen during the primary season, and we know that it's very likely to happen again in November. But we know this. So we got power to deal with that issue, to recruit younger folks in our communities to be poll workers, to spread the word about that. We got power to deal with even that issue.
Cliff Albright: There is no issue of voter suppression facing us, that we don't have the power to counteract. In fact, there's no issue facing us that we have not already counteracted and overcome. We got that power.
Cliff Albright: Then lastly, when all is said and done, after election day, as Brianna was talking about, the battle doesn't end there. In fact, it's just the beginning of a new cycle of the battle. What do we say? The past isn't dead. In fact, it's not even past.
Cliff Albright: Even after election day, the battle hasn't stopped. We still have to be vigilant, and we still have power to deal with all of the other issues of accountability. Holding folks accountable, getting the changes that we need to get, so that the next election day is not as problematic as this election day is shaping up to be.
Cliff Albright: We've got the power to do all of that for the next 40 whatever days, between now and November 3rd. But after November 3rd and into 2021, and 20- there's no such thing as an off year. We've all got that power.
Cliff Albright: If we don't have the power to do anything else, if we're not election specialists, if we don't know all the laws, if we don't know all the ins and outs of voter purges and intellectual monitoring, if we don't have all the ins and outs of PPE and providing masks or whatever, if nothing else, every single one of us has the ability to just spread the word.
Cliff Albright: We tell people all the time, if you can do nothing else, if you can just touch five other folks, we've got our Five Friends Pledge we always talk about, we say, "Go get your five, and you go get your five." If everybody gets their five, or gets their 10 or gets their 15, if we all just spread the word.
Cliff Albright: Spread that informational video on how to accurately vote by mail. Spread the word about the need to vote early, don't wait until election day. Don't wait for the deadlines to get registered to vote, to do it today, to do it. If we spread the word about the fierce urgency of now, if we just reach out.
Cliff Albright: If we share information that we see on social media, if we send text messages to five or 10 of our friends and family. If you can't do nothing else, you've got the power to touch somebody in your circle.
Cliff Albright: I think I heard somebody. I don't know. So, that's my call to action. Is touch somebody, reach somebody, share some information with somebody, try to inspire somebody. If you can't do that, then share the information that can put them in touch with somebody else that might be able to, that might be able to deal with whatever the issues are that they're trying to see dealt with.
Cliff Albright: We've all got that power. We've all got a role to play in this process. I'm going to pass it with that. I'm going to pass it over to my friend, sister, comrade, LaTosha Brown.
LaTosha Brown: I think Cliff Albright has said all that needs to be said, to be honest. And that at the end of the day, that's all that needs to be said, that we've got to actually organize around power.
LaTosha Brown: What I will tell people is, as part of the call of action is that we're doing a lot of this work. I'm going to say how you can be involved with Black Voters Matter. If you can check us out on our website, there are a couple of things that you can do with the work that we're doing.
LaTosha Brown: One, it is really important in this moment, as we're talking about this conversation of power that you connect with organizations and have a political home of people who are doing this work. And to reiterate what my brother said, this is all about we have to move beyond just participation about power.
LaTosha Brown: You can check us out on www.BlackVotersMatterFund.org. In addition to that, if you want to find information about what we're doing, text us, "We matter" to 797979. You can also find us on social media platforms. We're on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, we're constantly updating where we are, where the bus is going to be, the events that we're doing at Black Voters MTR.
LaTosha Brown: Make sure that you reach out to Black Voters MTR to follow us. I think that for the next month you're going to see, as Cliff said, the Blackest Fleet in America roam all around the streets of this country, really being able to encourage and inspire voters.
LaTosha Brown: So, I'm just going to ask you all to please reach out to us. Reach out to us, BlackVotersMatterFund.org. Text "We matter" to 797979. Keep in contact. We want to really be able, even if, in terms of voters, voters are trying to figure out their status, are they registered to vote.
LaTosha Brown: They can also go to our website, BlackVotersMatterFund.org/vote. They can check their status. You can actually get a voter registration form right there, or you can connect to some of the work that we're doing.
LaTosha Brown: Thank you all, so much. This is all about, when we're talking about black voters matter, we mean that black voters matter, not about participation, but because of power. We have power, and this is the moment to use it.
Cliff Albright: Good.
Gerald Lenoir: That brings us to the end of our program. I'd like to thank LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright of the Black Voters Matter Fund for co-sponsoring this event and for their rich contribution to the dialogue.
Gerald Lenoir: Thanks to all of our speakers, Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project, Brianna Brown from the Texas Organizing Project, and unfortunately, Desmond Meade from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was not able to join us.
Gerald Lenoir: Let me also thank the technical crew and We & Goliath who have done such a great job, making sure we're online and we're technically correct.
Gerald Lenoir: Let me also give a shout out to the staff of the Othering & Belonging Institute and the Black Voters Matter Fund, who worked behind the scenes to organize this event. I appreciate the team spirit and the collaboration.
Gerald Lenoir: Today we were faced with a grave situation, unprecedented in our history. We're confronted with the intersecting perils of COVID-19; the crisis in human relations, precipitated and reinforced by structural racism in a white supremacist ideology; a global economic capable of epic proportions; and a profound political crisis in Washington and beyond.
Gerald Lenoir: We are challenged to create something out of nothing, to make a silk purse out of sow's ear, as they say. But I say, we can meet the challenge. The Black Lives Matter movement has reinvigorated our march to justice, freedom and democracy, and many of the other social movements that are allied that have come alive in the 21st century have also shown maturity and growth:
Gerald Lenoir: The Immigrant Justice movement, the women's movement, the climate justice movement, the LGBTQ+ movement, Indigenous rights movement, and of course the Electoral Justice movement.
Gerald Lenoir: We have the opportunity at this inflection point in history to bring about a new consciousness, a new way of thinking about human relationships, the role of government ensuring that all of us belong, and a new conception of the economy and a healthcare system that works for all of us.
Gerald Lenoir: The next hurdle towards a marathon that Nipsey Hussle rapped about, is the 2020 elections. We have heard from our speakers about what has been done, what is being done and what must be done to ensure that our people vote and that all votes are counted. It is up to us, all of us together, to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
Gerald Lenoir: With that, let me end with a poem that I wrote that is contained in my poetry book, United States of Struggle: Police Murder in America, that will be released next week. The poem is titled Day by Day. I wrote it as a homage to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Gerald Lenoir: Day by day, we rebel in peaceful confrontation. Day by day, we struggle for justice and affirmation. Day by day, we battle the forces of exploitation. And day by day, we challenge an imperfect nation.
Gerald Lenoir: Day by day, we lift every voice and sing. Day by day, we demand, let freedom ring. Day by day, we make something out of nothing. Day by day, we transform our winter into spring.
Gerald Lenoir: Day by day, we shatter all the false illusions. Day by day, we cut through the utter confusion. Day by day, we fight for belonging and inclusion. Day by day, we reach for a righteous solution.
Gerald Lenoir: Day by day, we rise up and kneel on one wounded knee. Day by day, we step up and unmask bigoted brutality. Day by day, we stand up and renounce racist immorality. Until, day by day, Black Lives Matter and we are all free.
Gerald Lenoir: Thank you very much for joining us.