After last week’s disappointing results in the NC Senate, we got back to work this week on Voter-Owned Elections and other initiatives like felon re-enfranchisement and youth voter education. In some good news, the NC House is currently considering expanding public financing to the statewide Treasurer’s race and allowing an additional municipality to implement their own VOE program (Chapel Hill already used VOE in their 2009 elections). This week, Ray and I have been phonebanking to reach out to citizens in conservative Democratic house districts that are sure to be the deciding factor for this important legislation. Although these measures in the House are not nearly as comprehensive as the Senate’s plan was, it is still an important positive step in the right direction.
Earlier this week, our team met to discuss and plan out some of our upcoming events in July. One of our main projects this summer is to reach out to area youth and get them civically engaged and tuned into local politics. When people know who their elected officials and what their responsibilities are, they can begin to take action for their own interests. It’s our job to alert youth to the important issues that affect them and let them know what they can do about it. In July we will have several events at a local YMCA. We will be holding forums about things like local education cuts and school board policies. The students will debate and hone their thoughts into arguments. Then we will perform a workshop about how to effectively contact local officials. Ray and I are very excited to work with local middle and high school kids. If they become interested in their communities at an early age, it’s more likely they become civically engaged and hold their leaders accountable. And that is a victory for society at large.
In addition to planning out these events, we have been scheduling various meetings with community leaders. Next week, we will meet Dr. David Mount, the director of community outreach at the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity and Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. The Angelou center specializes on research and policy work to correct health care disparities in low-income and minority neighborhoods. We will also be meeting Mr. Michael Thomas of the Goodwill Re-Entry Program for ex-felons. He works to re-integrate them into society and provides support. We will talk to him about our initiatives encouraging ex-felons to re-register and become voters.
At the top of our priorities list are two meetings we are organizing in Guilford County. The first is to bring together various groups in Greensboro and Guilford County to talk about GOTV efforts and electoral reform at a local church. The second is a community dinner and movie night block party in downtown Greensboro. We have partnered with a local group called Food Not Bombs to cook a dinner, and we will show the documentary “The Trials of Darryl Hunt” on a big screen outside the HIVE community center. Click this link to check out the Darryl Hunt Project’s website: http://www.darrylhuntproject.org/film.html
All of this will serve as an opportunity for discussion of local issues and a way for residents to connect with one another. It’s a huge undertaking and we have been collecting and gathering all our contacts in the Greensboro area. With Linda’s help we have generated a multiple page list of e-mail addresses and organizations and have created a public service announcement to release to the local media. Hopefully with some more dedication over the next two weeks we can pull it off!
Here’s to hard work!
-Sean Maxwell (and Ray Robinson)