The National Urban League, BET, and more than 50 partner organizations have launched the first National Black Voter Day last Friday, September 18th, 2020.
BET held a series of online events throughout the day focusing on voting, civic engagement, economic development, health and education including a town hall, training session, speeches and live performances that can be watched on social media. The inaugural event involved political, entertainment, sports and media stars including Stacey Abrams, Soledad O’Brien and Tina Knowles-Lawson who are featured in PSAs for the campaign.
The day is intended to “aid Black citizens against suppression tactics and ensure that their vote counts,” in the November elections, the National Urban League said in a release.
“We are rallying all the resources and relationships we have to mitigate the undeniable efforts being made to disenfranchise the African American community, a voting bloc ubiquitously understood to influence elections,” BET Networks President Scott Mills said. “We will use the current momentum of the fight against systemic racism to galvanize those marching in protest to march to the polls in November.”
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Brittany Packnett Cunnigham, an activist who consulted on the National Black Voter Day campaign, said the date was chosen in part because it is one of the earliest days for early voting in states like South Dakota and Minnesota, which has become one of the epicenters of protests over the summer following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Packnett Cunningham said the day is part of BET’s #ReclaimYourVote campaign which launched in February to make it easier for African Americans to vote during the coronavirus pandemic by explaining how to register, make a voting plan and encourage others to vote. She said the campaign has more events in works throughout the election season.
“The process does not end with voting, it begins with voting,” she told USA TODAY.
Lawmakers in 25 states have introduced hundreds of measures that make it harder to vote since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Many states have implemented voter ID laws, purged voter rolls, closed polling places, cut early voting and challenged eligibility, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
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Black people were four times more likely than white people to report experiencing racial discrimination when trying to vote or participate in politics, the Center for American Progress found in 2017. National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial said National Black Voter Day is an opportunity for Black voters to create a clear plan and execute it as early as possible in statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
“In the current climate of uncertainty and unrest, it’s important to make a plan for voting – particularly for Black voters,” Morial said. “Efforts to suppress the Black vote are coming from all sides, whether it’s restrictive state voting laws or foreign-based misinformation campaigns.”
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