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COMMENTARY: This November, Unite to Defend the Black Vote

I know that some folks don’t vote because they believe their vote doesn’t matter. History shows that it does. The best example I can think of is what happened in Georgia in 2020, the first year we ran our Defend the Black Vote campaign. We motivated over 200,000 additional Black men in Georgia to vote that year – a year when the presidential election in the state was decided by 12,000 votes. The Black men who voted in Georgia made a historic difference, and the numbers prove it.

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free" will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free" will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.

By Ben Jealous

Right before our last national elections in 2020, thousands of Black voters in Detroit got a call from someone posing as a woman named “Tamika Taylor.” She warned them that if they voted, the government would collect their personal information and come after them for credit card debt, outstanding warrants, even forced vaccinations. The calls were a voter suppression scam, and the two white guys behind it were prosecuted. But we’ll never know how many people were nervous enough to avoid voting that year.

Dirty tricks like this make me sick. And as we get closer to this year’s midterms, civil rights leaders are warning that we’re likely to see more of them. The Far Right is waging a war on Black voters, and disinformation is among its favorite weapons. Another one is passing laws to make it harder for Black citizens to vote. The Brennan Center at NYU keeps track of these efforts. The legal scholars there report that since 2020, lawmakers in 49 states have introduced more than 400 bills that would make it harder to vote. This midterm election is the first nationwide election since that massive voter suppression campaign started, and we have one way to fight it: massive voter mobilization.

Getting our friends and neighbors to vote so we can have a say in issues that affect our daily lives is a calling for all of us. I am fortunate to lead an organization that will make Black male voters the focus of our Get Out the Vote efforts this year. Our initiative, Defend the Black Vote, will reach out to Black men in 15 states who are registered but skipped two out of three of the last elections. Our focus will be men because they still don’t vote in the high percentages Black women do. Our message will be simple: Vote this November. Vote because your vote is your voice and your power. Vote because of everything that is on the line in these elections: jobs, reproductive rights, mass incarceration, who sits on our courts, education for our kids, health care, pollution in the environment where our families live.

Vote because we need to Ban the Box. Vote because Black Lives Matter. Vote because you have a dream of entrepreneurship. Vote because your mental health, and your family’s mental health, matters. Vote because the white supremacists don’t want you to, and are doing everything they can to stop you, and that tells you how important it is.

I know that some folks don’t vote because they believe their vote doesn’t matter. History shows that it does. The best example I can think of is what happened in Georgia in 2020, the first year we ran our Defend the Black Vote campaign. We motivated over 200,000 additional Black men in Georgia to vote that year – a year when the presidential election in the state was decided by 12,000 votes. The Black men who voted in Georgia made a historic difference, and the numbers prove it.

We know there’s one more way today’s Far Right and their predecessors — the Klan, the White League, and all the other terrorists like them — have tried to suppress Black votes, and it’s the ugliest: intimidation and threats of violence. Our ancestors faced a real risk of being attacked or murdered for registering to vote or voting. Today the intimidation might be more high-tech: is your name in the system, will you be accused of an illegal vote? Florida’s arrests of returning citizens who voted — after being issued new voter registration cards by the state itself — are especially cruel. They were meant to scare people, and they probably did.

So, vote because we refuse to be intimidated. Because those who went before us put their lives on the line to cast a ballot. And if you are a man who doesn’t have a plan to vote, or you have a father, brother, uncle or son who doesn’t have a plan, it’s not too late to make one now. We need you.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.

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Oakland Post: Week of May 15 – 21, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May May 15 – 21, 2024

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Oakland Post: Week of May 8 – 14, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May May 8 – 14, 2024

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S.F. Black Leaders Rally to Protest, Discuss ‘Epidemic’ of Racial Slurs Against Black Students in SF Public School System

Parents at the meeting spoke of their children as no longer feeling safe in school because of bullying and discrimination. Parents also said that reported incidents such as racial slurs and intimidation are not dealt with to their satisfaction and feel ignored. 

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Rev. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church. Photo courtesy Third Baptist Church.
Rev. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church. Photo courtesy Third Baptist Church.

By Carla Thomas

San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church hosted a rally and meeting Sunday to discuss hatred toward African American students of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

Rev. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church, along with leadership from local civil rights groups, the city’s faith-based community and Black community leadership convened at the church.

“There has been an epidemic of racial slurs and mistreatment of Black children in our public schools in the city,” said Brown. “This will not be tolerated.”

According to civil rights advocate Mattie Scott, students from elementary to high school have reported an extraordinary amount of racial slurs directed at them.

“There is a surge of overt racism in the schools, and our children should not be subjected to this,” said Scott. “Students are in school to learn, develop, and grow, not be hated on,” said Scott. “The parents of the children feel they have not received the support necessary to protect their children.”

Attendees were briefed last Friday in a meeting with SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne.

SFUSD states that their policies protect children and they are not at liberty to publicly discuss the issues to protect the children’s privacy.

Parents at the meeting spoke of their children as no longer feeling safe in school because of bullying and discrimination. Parents also said that reported incidents such as racial slurs and intimidation are not dealt with to their satisfaction and feel ignored.

Some parents said they have removed their students from school while other parents and community leaders called on the removal of the SFUSD superintendent, the firing of certain school principals and the need for more supportive school board members.

Community advocates discussed boycotting the schools and creating Freedom Schools led by Black leaders and educators, reassuring parents that their child’s wellbeing and education are the highest priority and youth are not to be disrupted by racism or policies that don’t support them.

Virginia Marshall, chair of the San Francisco NAACP’s education committee, offered encouragement to the parents and students in attendance while also announcing an upcoming May 14 school board meeting to demand accountability over their mistreatment.

“I’m urging anyone that cares about our students to pack the May 14 school board meeting,” said Marshall.

This resource was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library via California Black Media as part of the Stop the Hate Program. The program is supported by partnership with California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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