Florida, historically known as a swing state, holds the power to determine election outcomes. According to a Pew Research report, in 2016 the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic voter suppression, and a broken economy threaten voter turnout. With just 10 days until election day, organizations and community leaders are combining efforts to turnout Black voters in Pinellas County, including the popular Roll to the Polls project.
Taking a lead in these efforts is Women Talk Black, a non-profit organization that aims to harness the power of Black women’s voices and drive changes in voting behavior in communities of the Rising American Electorate (people of color, unmarried women and youth). In collaboration with the Carter G. Woodson museum, the group has quickly become an influencer in efforts to get out the vote in St. Petersburg. Through Covid-conscious community events, online education, and civic engagement resources at the local, state, and national levels.
Rolls to the Polls was organized by a partnership among Women Talk Black, the Carter G. Woodson Museum, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Tampa Bay Rays and more than 60 community organizations. The project honors the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis by helping people exercise the power of their voice through their vote. Over the last 9 weeks, it has brought together hundreds of residents, elected officials, and candidates to get the vote out. Participants take their completed- ballots to the secure drop box at Tropicana Field on a designated date and time, stay for the (COVID-friendly) voter rally, and then hit the streets to encourage community members to cast their own ballots.
When asked why Black women are critical to the voting movement, Women Talk Black founder Stephanie Owens said “Black women’s work and influence as leaders of social justice, civil rights and civic engagement for hundreds of years, is the cornerstone of the growth of our nation’s social conscience. From Sojourner Truth to Stacey Abrams, we continue to make America great.”
She added: “Today, our leadership is needed more than ever to encourage a new generation of voters to keep fighting for change to make America all that she should and could be for our community. Past generations had to fight after witnessing brutal lynchings, after joining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and after electing the first Black President Barack Obama. Now we are still recovering from the deaths of Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Yes, it’s exhausting and frustrating, but we are not afraid to do the work we have always done. We stand on the shoulders of too much greatness to ever give up.”
To learn more, find out about upcoming events, or get involved in the movement visit https://www.womentalkblack.org/.
Women Talk Black is currently seeking community partners to help amplify their message through the Voting is Our Voice 2020 Election initiative as well as activities beyond the election. Become a partner at https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/U41bieT.