Held every year in the United States, National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday that celebrates our democracy and encourages voter registration. This year, it happened on Tuesday, September 22nd, and local leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, held several coordinated events to inform and engage their peers ahead of the 2020 elections. We’re excited to share some reflections from Shaquana Boykin, OYUnited’s Digital Engagement Fellow, who attended two events hosted by OYUnited leaders in Atlanta.
Two OYUnited leaders, Shanice Turner and Daniel Rosebud, hosted local events. Shanice and Daniel are both recipients of the Carolina Fund OYU Civic Engagement Grant, which is supporting five OYUnited leaders and Community Action Teams (CATs) to hold civic engagement activities leading up to the election.
Shanice’s event helped community members learn how to cast their ballot, featuring a demonstration from Secure the Vote, an inclusive, broad-based education initiative that shows people in all walks of life, in every corner of the state, what to expect when they begin voting in 2020. The event was held from 1 – 7pm with several sponsors, free food, gift cards, and personal protective equipment (PPE) giveaways. There were also tables helping register people to vote and reps from community resources ranging from Amber Alert to Street Groomers. (Check out clips of the event on Instagram.)
The event took place at Floyd Plaza in the Pittsburgh area of Atlanta. I traveled from New York to participate. I remember looking around and seeing a statue of a bicycle and feeling at home. Although I was far away from my native Brooklyn, the familiar figure of a bike comforted me.
Near the bike, I saw a painting hanging that perplexed me. I looked at Kim Pham, who is a member of the OYUnited Leadership team, and we both were struck by the artist’s layers of texture and colors. I have never really been creative or understood every art form, although as a Community Leader I am able to appreciate raw art and art in general.
Looking at this art work made me question everything I once saw as “safety”: my skin, my clothing, my cell phone, the location I live in and walk. I felt that pain in my heart, the kind that wakes you up, you holding your chest. I felt that, but this pain also had me in a place of reflection, and gave me a push to focus on this day of action to get out the vote (GOTV). Sometimes we need to reflect on our own power, pain and privilege.
“I felt that pain in my heart, the kind that wakes you up, you holding your chest … but this pain also had me in a place of reflection, and gave me a push to continue this day of action… Sometimes we need to reflect on our own power, pain and privilege.”
Floyd Plaza had such a rich feeling of history and community. As we were setting up for the event, people walked over and asked “What time does the event start? When we see tents and tables we know to come by.”
This was the gathering spot for all ages young and older. Our first volunteer walked over with her father to tell us that she wanted to help. She was 5 years old and ready to be engaged.
After several hours of entertaining, educating, listening, and getting people to register to vote, Kim and I headed to Daniel’s event.
Daniel’s STATE ADDRESS: YOUNG GEORGIANS was a call to action for all young adults to activate, mobilize, and leverage this 2020 election year to be heard on immediate and systemic barriers concerning their overall permanency, stability and equity as young adults.
It was an event with many layers of youth leadership: The event was a collaboration, coordinated by Georgia Reconnecting Youth Coalition, INC (GRYC) and The GReY Project. GRYC and The GReY Project were founded by Daniel Rosebud, an OYUnited Community Leader, and his co-founder Christopher Prather. They describe themselves as “two young black male adults with lived experience as disconnected youth, who reside in Atlanta, Georgia.”
GRYC is supported by Opportunity Youth United, New Georgia Project, Partnership for Southern Equity, Year Up Atlanta, and ONSET & CO, and Politicking.io, and had young adults representing each of these organizations at the event.
This event aimed to create space for young adults to share and learn what opportunities can be addressed through voting. As Daniel wrote in his press release, “The voting process is not always the easiest process to understand. We aim to articulate the connection of voting to structured opportunities for ourselves and families regardless of who’s in office.”
It was inspiring to see a community leader in his community showing up, advocating, and taking action!
“The voting process is not always the easiest process to understand. We aim to articulate the connection of voting to structured opportunities for ourselves and families regardless of who’s in office.”
The in-person aspects were done safely by practicing social distancing and wearing masks, and upon entering the building, participants received a pre-screening with a temperature check. There were also virtual options to watch remotely, as well.
At the event, Daniel gave an opening talk with several of his movement’s young leaders, followed by a panel discussion and entertainment from Bobbi Strom. During the panel, most questions were displayed on the screen with a QR code for the audience to answer as well. The panelists included Kimberly Pham from OYU/Aspen Community Solutions, and panelists from the GReY Project, Greenlight Fund, and the Georgia Project.
Here were a few of the questions asked of panelists:
- What do you think are the two most urgent issues facing our under-resourced communities and why?
- What makes 2020 a unique voting year?
- Who can and should vote in the 2020 election?
- Which offices are open for the 2020 election ( John Lewis Congressional Seat, Judges)?
The last question was interactive with the audience, asking “Will you, our audience vote, have you registered, will you pledge to actually go to the polls on election day ?” The audience was responsive. Some young adults expressed that they are here today at this event to see what they can do to GOTV.
Audience member Dr. N. Jean Hudley, the Founder and Executive Director of Boys2Men Home & Sanctuary for Youth, Inc, posed a question to us audience members, “What are you all doing to get involved in the political process?” Daniel Rosebud immediately responded, “We have a guest from NYC who has answered the call and won her primary election.” Daniel was referring to my leap to join the Democratic Party of Kings County New York, serving AD 57 as the State Committeewoman. My response to all congratulating me was a call to action, “No matter what role or position you have the power to resign the leadership and policy we all deserve, show up how you can!”
To sum it up, the panelists and audience questions and answers worked well, and it felt good to have a conversation and not be talked at. During the question and answer portion, one audience member posed a question to the panelist and audience and asked, “What are you all doing to get more young people civically engaged?
So, as you reflect on our events hosted by Young Adults on September 22, answer this question for yourself!
For more on the events:
Follow us on Instagram to see clips of the live streams @Oyunited.
The Young leaders who supported content and tech for recordings for Daniel’s event included:
- Frozen Films – (SCAD ATL) – Charles McGinty
- Onset and Co – Brian Philips
- Law The Outlaw – Immanuel Laidlaw