FIRED UP & # VOTEREADY: Black Youth Vote! Prepares Young People to VOTE in 14 States

Jamaal Rose, Florida Black Youth Vote! coordinator with FAMU students Kim Wilson (middle) and Sharon Davis encouraging students to vote early or on Nov. 6.

Washington, DC – Determined to keep the swagger going among their peers, Black Youth Vote! (BYV!), the youth program of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), is hustling hard as they transition their iThink 2012 Campaign efforts from voter registration to voter education and mobilization for the last days of the 2012 Presidential Election cycle.

BYV! national field coordinator, Jessica Brown, believes that the young adults won’t be easily deterred during this election. “Regardless of what is often reflected in the music and the culture, we are concerned about issues that impact us and we pay attention.”

Virginia BYV! coordinator, Tiara Davis adds, “Because of the voter suppression laws passed to reduce the number of people who can vote, we are getting the message out to vote early and if someone tries to block you from voting, Stand Your Ground and VOTE.”

Active in 14 states and DC, BYV! is making tremendous waves at the grassroots level. The young leaders are dorm knocking, staging vote raids, working with the fraternities and sororities to get their members to the polls, and collecting voter pledge cards. Florida BYV! organizers Lucas Melton and Jamaal Rose even convinced their college president, Florida A&M University (FAMU) interim president Larry Robinson, to sign a BYV! pledge card and cancel classes for a few hours so FAMU students could participate in a march to the polls on the first day of early voting!

“We’re out here on a daily basis getting young people fired up about this election,” said Melton. “In addition to making sure they understand the voter ID requirements, we are reminding them that this election is beyond selecting a president, there are state and local races and referendums that will impact our daily lives.”

Other tactics BYV is using to empower the hip hop nation are debate watch parties; town hall meetings; a digital hit squad getting the message out via social media; and the recruitment of radio DJ’s to play the BYV! theme song, “Vote4Justice”, by Andre “Champ” Hobson. Jeremy Triblett, Wisconsin BYV! , is one of several club DJ’s around the country playing the theme song and urging people to vote while in the nightclubs.

“A major part of our voter registration campaign was to register and educate ex-offenders, so now we’re contacting them to help them identify their poll location and offering rides to the polls to make sure they vote,” adds Portia Tyson, Alabama BYV!.

With the alarming talk of voter suppression efforts and protesters looking to block African-Americans from voting, the organization is working with Common Cause and others to recruit volunteers, called Foot Soldiers for Democracy, to train to work as poll monitors and poll workers. Poll monitors will work outside the polls on Election Day reporting problems via text, mobile apps, and by calling the 1 – 866- OUR VOTE hotline to report problems to lawyers.

Black Youth Vote! iThink2012 partners include, Generational Alliance, BET VOTE 2012, Hip Hop Caucus, Black Men Vote, 100 Black Men of America, Inc. and the Cost of Freedom Project.

“Young people have always been the catalyst behind any movement. They are impacted by issues such as student loans, military enlistment and unemployment,” cites Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of NCBCP and co-founder of BYV!. “That’s why Black Youth Vote is such an integral component in our Unity 12 Voter Empowerment Campaign. BYV! also has a special voter empowerment focus on young black males because so many of them are hurt by the unjust voter suppression laws and those who were formerly incarcerated have problems getting their right to vote restored.”

Black Youth Vote! (BYV!) is a national grassroots coalition of organizations and individuals committed to increasing political and civic engagement among black youth and young adults between the ages of 18-35. The iThink2012 Campaign is made possible with support from the Open Society Foundations, Workers Voices, Boule Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Youth Engagement Fund and Tides Foundation-BCEF. Co-convened by NCBCP and A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Unity ’12 Campaign is a national non-partisan effort to turn out Black voters. For more information visit www.ncbcp.org or www.unityvoterempowermentcampaign.org.




Black Youth Vote Commentary on Impact of Jobs Act & Poverty Report

Washington, DC – It is a critical time in America. The recession has been tough,especially for young black American’s who are faced with bleak job prospects, exorbitant student loans and overwhelming hopelessness. With and unemployment rate for young black males over 18 percent, young black men are still hemorrhaging and the people we put in office to represent us are just starting to take notice.

If that’s not enough, earlier this week the US Census Bureau released “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010,” a report thatunderscores the spiraling rate of poverty and decline of the median household income for Americans, especially Black American’s. This is the third consecutive year that the household income for African-American’s declinedand, according to the report, 10.7 million African Americans lived in poverty in 2010.

As for young people, as usual, we’re the hardest hit by a depressed economy. The New York Times recently reported that young people between the ages of 25 – 34 are depending more on their parents for financial support; of that age group without family support 45.3 percent of them live in poverty. This is the same population experiencing high unemployment at 45.6 percent. That’s right, almost half of the 25 – 34 year-olds are unemployed. We need help now.

Earlier this week President Obama sent a much-needed American Jobs Act to the Hill for swift passage. This jobslegislative package is a criticalattempt by the Obama administration to address the economic hardships faced by Americans across the country and is expected to cost $447 billion.

President Obama’s American Jobs Act includes the “Pathways Back to Work Fund” which provides summer jobs for programs for low-income youth and year-round employment for economically disadvantaged young adults. Additionally, the extension of the payroll tax will help 20 million African-American workers and the new tax credit for hiring the long term unemployed will have a significant impact on the Black community.

The American Jobs Act also takes a step in the right direction in preventing employers from discriminating against the long term unemployed, which will benefit young adults as well as black males – the members of the black community who are chronically unemployed.

Black Youth Vote! is cautiously optimistic about this bill. We’re happy to see our elected officials finally prioritize job creation and hope that this bill will begin to create jobs with livable wages for our community. However, one thing we know is the political process; and sending the American Jobs Act to Capitol Hill is merely a step in an on-going journey.

It is important that black youth take the necessary steps to compel our elected officials to remain focused on creating jobs. Whether you’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, you must pay attention and make sure that our decision makers constructively move on social policies that will aid in the upward mobility of marginalized communities.

Below are four simple and effective ways to be involved:

For more direct action on the “American Jobs Act” please connect with our partner organization The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights by visiting http://www.civilrights.org/action_center/america-needs-job.html
Connect with a local community organization(s) and leader(s) to serve as “community watchdogs” to ensure that once funds are sent to states that those most impacted are benefiting from the “American Jobs Act” and to prevent wasteful spending.
Register to vote and Educate members in your local community on social policy issues that affect your community as a conversation with action ahead of the 2012 election.
Stay updated on our iThink2012 campaign by following us on Twitter: @blackyouthvote, Facebook: Black Youth Vote!, Email: blackyouthvote@ncbcp.org, or TEXT iThink2012 to 69302
It’s time for young folks to take control of our own future. You need to read about the pros and cons of the “American Jobs Act” and I’m sure you will see how it benefits young people – especially young black men. In order to get swift passage of the “American Jobs Act” to put our brothers and sisters back to work with livable wages black youth must be proactive. Without action, we will continue to lead in economic and social disparities. Enough is Enough. It’s time to get busy making the government work for us.

Deven D. Anderson is Senior Program Associate of Black Youth Vote!, a Youth & Young AdultInitiative of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (www.ncbcp.org). blackyouthvote@ncbcp.org

Black Youth Vote! is a national grassroots coalition of organization and individuals committed to increasing political and civic involvement among Black men and women aged 18-35. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation launched Black Youth Vote! to empower Black youth by educating them about the political process and training them to identify issues and influence public policy through participation. Over the past 15 years, BYV! has been leading the movement to increase black youth voter participation and engagement for black youth.