Black Girls Vote, a political organization, encourages all members of various communities throughout the East Coast to be more involved in the democratic process. They explain to their trained volunteers, who in turn inform community members, the significance and history of voting, as well as the professional backgrounds of running candidates for upcoming elections.
Black Girls Vote’s main goal is to get as many voters to the polls as possible, but before that, they encourage community members to make informed decisions. Information such as causes the candidates stand for, what they hope to accomplish if elected and their previous achievements is first collected, and then flyers are handed out with this information at voter registration sites.
Yet, their intention is never to sway voters, but to ensure that they are aware of who the running candidates are, and therefore make the necessary steps in gaining the type of community they hope to have. In fact, Black Girls Vote is adamant against swaying community members in either direction in terms of a political party; they just let voters know the facts. Emails and fact sheets, or flyers, tell voters what a particular candidate has done in the past, what their plans are and what party they’re running on. A Facts Friday email also goes out every week, providing a few notes on what changes have or have not been made since elections.
So how did it start? Black Girls Vote was founded in 2015 in response to the Freddie Grey incident that took place that year. During the 2008 and 2012 elections, black women made up a large percentage of voters. So it appeared to the Black Girls Vote team that the way to really make a change is through voting with black women setting the tone for that change. Nonetheless, with the foundation of their beginnings in mind, they remind others that they’re not exclusively Black Girls Vote; they are willing to register anyone interested in becoming a voter, and providing them with as much knowledge and support needed as anyone else.
What makes Black Girls Vote unique is their partnership with other organizations that ensure the comfort and convenience of community voters. For example, during the most recent presidential election, for which many of the nearest and most convenient voting sites were shut down in the South, Black Girls Vote partnered with Lyft, so that people unable to reach their voting site would be able to vote. On rainy days, they even supplied ponchos.
Unfortunately, the results of the recent election may cause many Americans to question the power voters can really have, but Black Girls Vote remains faithful in their mission, the democratic process and the positive influence of social media. Natasha Murphy, Deputy Director, provides social media support to make sure the latest news is being tracked. “Anytime a BGV member is out on the job,” she says, “registering new voters, or out voting themselves, we encourage them to wear their Black Girls Vote tee-shirts, take pictures, and post them with the hashtag ‘BGV’ or ‘SheWillVote.’” It helps people become more aware of the organization, and create a willingness to get involved, which in turn promotes being heard through voting.
Their new Collegiate Ambassador program also requires that students hold events to encourage their friends and peers to vote. Murphy, once again, puts it best: “They’ll have tables set up with stacks of forms with detailed information on the candidates running for a spot in the upcoming election, so students can know who they’re voting for, and make informed choices. They also register other students to vote.” Black Girls Vote also prepares students who are not old enough to vote yet, such as those currently attending elementary school, by planning field trips to legislators’ offices.
The local government, for which Black Girls Vote also takes a stand, is arguably more significant than the presidential. In addition to registering voters, the Black Girls Vote community holds meetings for neighborhood members to voice their concerns to politicians. “If the living wage is higher than the minimum wage, or there’s a lack of funding for schools, and people are not happy,” Murphy explains, “these officials are expected to do something about it. If they do make a change, it’s important to commend them on a job well done. If not, an email or letter will go out to the officials reminding them of the issues that need to be taken care of. And of course, people will know whether or not to vote for them again.” The essence of the work of Black Girls Vote, meetings and follow-ups ensure progress is being made throughout the community.
Black Girls Vote’s perseverance continues with national conferences for those unable to attend meetings or whose distant hometown prevents them from taking a greater, more active role in the organization’s events. These conferences discuss the importance of voting and encourage voters to hit the polls and be heard. During the last conference, Murphy remembers, “People called in to speak to the current president of Spelman College, the director of African American engagement in the campaign and Maryland’s state attorney. We have also teamed up with the congressional black caucus, and held a national conference with them.” Black Girls Vote aims to include all Americans on the local and national levels.
Many Americans underestimate the impact they can have on their communities when they choose not to vote, especially during the primaries and other local elections, which have a more direct impact on them. Black Girls Vote is dedicated to providing the necessary knowledge and support to ensure as many people as possible are involved, and in turn, recognize the change they’ve made afterwards.