Sharlene Green 11/02/2018
2018 midterm elections spark an exciting time in politics. With Stacey Abrams (D) first Black female major party nominee for the Georgia gubernatorial race, Andrew Gillium (D), Florida gubernatorial race. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous (D) for the Maryland gubernatorial race and Latisha James (D), if elected, the first Black female attorney general for NYS. These minority candidates rose to compete in the general election despite President Trump’s continual attack on immigrant minority communities.
So how did these Black candidates rise to the general election? Lots of trench work a.k.a. community organizing. Latosha Brown and Cliff Albright, co-founders of Black Voters Matter Fund explain their voter mobilization. In an op-ed to the New York Times, How to Turn a Person into a Vote, Brown and Albright explain their methodology.
1). Remind people they have political power
2). Assess and adopt to a particular community’s needs
3). Let the local people lead
4). Focus on the primaries
5). Don’t pack your bags after the race is over
6). Embrace difficult conversations
7). Know the culture
At the Katal Center community organizing is the heart beat of the organization. Co-director Lorenzo Jones has over 25 years teaching communities how to advocate for themselves. On 11/01/2018 during a Katal Center team development meeting he explains how community organizing differs from issue advocacy. Jones explains that issue advocacy prioritizes the issue whereas community organizing prioritizes the community. Once people learn to mobilize, they can self-sufficiently adopt and resolve their own community needs.
“Catch a fish for a man, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, now, he can go get his fishing license.”
The Black Voters Matters Fund is a perfect blend of community organizing and issue advocacy. By reminding people of their political power as it ascertains to their local needs, individuals are equipped with the tools to fight for issues that extend beyond selecting their elected officials.
This framework of BVMF is commendable but the hope is that communities realize their power begins not just ends with their voting power. The job of the campaign staff is to get their point person elected. Consequently, the discourse to constituents often revolves around what the elected official can do for them unlike the Katal Center that works to teach individual communities what they can do for themselves.
Never do for people what they can do for themselves, Jones echoes.
Elected officials are installed to help the community but voter campaigns, such as the celebrity endorsement of Oprah canvassing for Stacey Abrams (D), are spun to dictate how voters can help candidates catapult to power.
Co-director Lorenzo Jones instills the principles of integrity over and over again. Our only job is not to lie to the people.
Elected officials do not have the capability to resolve each electoral district issue, limited time and resources make some good intentions impossible. But it is possible for communities to create and carry out their own political agendas. After the final ballot is cast and the final campaign promise has passed away, the Katal Center retains one final principle, Black votes matter, but Black voters matter more.
Honorable African American nominees for Congressional races include Ayanna Pressley (D), Lauren Underwood (D), Jahana Hayes (D), Stephany Rose Spaulding (D), Antonio Delgado (D). For Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton (D). Don’t forget to vote.