Last month, we saw historic voter turnout across our country. And while much has already been said about who turned out and why, we all saw the important role that Black women, like the ones Springboard serves, play in shaping and organizing their communities. It has always been our commitment as an organization to ensure the voices of our families are heard in their communities, and voting is an important first step. But voting is more than completing a registration form and having a ride to the polls. Many of our residents have been told their whole lives, both explicitly and implicitly, that their voices do not matter. Policy makers have dismissed their voices and opinions. Community leaders have developed their own solutions and visions without asking for community input. And when people in power constantly tell you that your stories and experiences are not true or do not matter, you stop trying to change their minds.
That’s why this year, we were so excited to partner with The Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable to do more than just engage our residents on Election Day. MSBWR created a three part voter engagement strategy and hired students and single mothers, including some of our own Springboard residents, to support the work. Residents were recruited to canvas prior to the election, promoting voter registration and getting to the polls on Election Day. More residents worked as paid volunteers in our communities during voter registration drives, ensuring community members were registered and their information was up-to-date. On Election Day, residents were trained and worked to answer questions from voters at the polls about precinct locations and handed out bags with snacks and PPE to people waiting in long voting lines.
Throughout all our communities, we worked with the NLIHC’s Our Homes, Our Votes 2020 initiative and reached over 600 people through voter registrations efforts, helping residents check and update their status and even register for the first time. And during these events, other residents and our staff talked to voters about why their vote matters, even beyond their vote for the president. They talked about the importance of local elections and knowing who can make sure the pothole down the street gets fixed or that your child’s school is fully funded – changes residents wanted to see in their communities. We worked with partner organizations to make sure they had rides to the poll, especially when mail-in voting was unavailable, and watched so many more energized residents cast their votes and let their voices be heard.
These residents who helped lead and organize these events and worked with MSBWR got to witness firsthand the power they have to organize their communities and create meaningful change. Despite the dominant narrative all around them, they saw that their actions, their stories, and their opinions are valuable and need to be heard.
But we know it doesn’t stop there. After voting comes accountability. Our commitment has always been to ensure that resident voices are listened to in policymaking and creating change. While voting is one piece of that, we want their stories to be a part of PTA meetings, city council discussions, legislative sessions, and in the creation of policy briefs. We want to make certain that our families are no longer boxed in by harmful myths, but have the opportunity to share their goals and dreams and what they know they need to get there. And we hope you all will stay tuned, because we have some serious plans in 2021 to make that happen.
While this year has brought on more changes than we ever could have anticipated, our commitment to uplifting resident voices and stories and ensuring all our families recognize their agency to be a part of changing their communities has only been strengthened. Thank you for being a part of that commitment with us.