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Black Women Matter, Black Women Vote, Here’s How We’re Mobilizing

We have been a key voting bloc for decades, and we know what’s at stake this time around. ‘Sisters’ highlights issues driving us to the polls and ways to get involved.

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Lyne Lucien
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September 22 is National Voter Registration Day. Sisters From AARP is committed to making sure your voice is heard in the November 2020 election.

When Kerry Schrader casts her ballot this fall, she will be voting with many people in mind. As a descendant of slaves, she’ll be voting to honor her ancestors who couldn’t vote. As a mother, she’ll be voting for her children’s welfare, thinking of the police brutality her son could face and of the threats to her daughter’s reproductive rights. As a business owner, she’ll be thinking about taxes and her financial future. And as a breast cancer survivor, she’ll be voting in hopes of affordable health care for all. “Voting is important to me because this is our chance to have our voice heard,” says the Birmingham, Alabama, resident.

Schrader is one-half of the mother/daughter duo behind Mixtroz, an event management software application. She and her daughter Ashlee Ammons are the 37th and 38th Black female founders to ever raise over $1 million in pre-seed venture capital funding. Despite this accomplishment, Schrader believes the success of her business and her overall well-being hang in the balance. “We are one vote away from a giant step backward for mankind,” she says.

Your Voice, Your Vote

In past elections, Black women have been one of the most active voting blocs in the U.S. electorate. Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, expects that we sisters will turn out in force for the November 2020 election, too. “I believe Black women will definitely exercise their right to vote,” Abudu says. “Almost every social justice issue hits Black women in a particular way.”

A global health pandemic rages on as we grapple with a number of health disparities. Sisters are concerned about education as their children adjust to virtual learning.

“And we know that Black women are disproportionately heads of households. So when you talk about an economic crisis, you’re talking about really putting those families headed by Black women in economic jeopardy,” Abudu says.

It Takes a Village

Not only are Black women highly active voters, but we and other women of color also play a central role in engaging with and mobilizing others to vote. Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, president-elect of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, believes this type of work will be especially important for the November 2020 general election. Voter ID laws, the purging of voter rolls, the closing of particular polling places and limits on voting by mail all threaten to disenfranchise marginalized groups.

“One of the most important things people can do is to make sure that they, their family members, people in their religious organizations and people in their civic and social organizations are voter ready,” Willoughby-Herard says. Make sure you and people in your circle of influence are registered to vote and have a plan for how they will cast their vote — even if that means sending ballots via FedEx.

Willoughby-Herard is confident that Black women will vote and encourage others to do the same. Issues that she believes will drive sisters to the polls include policing, prison reform, health care, maternal and infant health, suicide rates among children, fair wages and the disappearance and killing of Black women and girls.

The presidential race is on everyone’s minds, but Willoughby-Herard stresses that down-ballot contests are just as important. Furthermore, she believes that what happens in the voting booth will help determine how our country will continue to respond to the COVID-19 global health pandemic.

“We have this sense that [one’s vote] doesn’t really matter, but I have over 190,000 reasons why this process matters,” she says, speaking of the number of Americans who have died from the virus so far.

Abudu emphasizes voting is only the first step. “Getting the right person in there is only the beginning,” she says. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on because otherwise we find ourselves in the same place when the election rolls around again.”

How You Can Get Involved

Civic and grassroots organizations, celebrities and nonprofits like AARP have been using their influence to encourage Black voter engagement. You can get involved by supporting such efforts and spreading the word.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is cochair of When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization committed to voter registration. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and his group More Than a Vote has partnered with the Los Angeles Dodgers to turn Dodger Stadium into a voting center this November. Oprah Winfrey has launched OWN Your Vote, a bipartisan campaign that partners with national and local grassroots and voting rights organizations to provide tools and resources to help Black women and their communities vote in the November election. Meanwhile, the NAACP has announced Black Voices Change Lives, an unprecedented effort to engage Black voters in battleground states.

AARP has resources to help you get ready for November, too. You can learn more about how to register and vote in the 2020 general election in your state. You can also sign up to receive election reminders, updates on voting procedures and more from AARP and TurboVote. 

This election season, lift your voice by casting your vote as early as you can!