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Upcoming events designed to encourage young adults of color to vote

Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries works to ensure a safe environment for conversations around voting

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM) announces the kickoff of its October Election-Fest. The month-long event is designed to help young adults of color navigate this difficult and critically important election year.

“We’re trying to ensure a safe environment and space to encourage young adults of color to exercise their right to vote,” said the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, Director of RE&WIM. “When Rep. John Lewis died, he is reported to have said that it would be fine to rename the Edmund Pettus bridge, the bridge from Selma to Montgomery that the 25-year-old Lewis led civil rights marchers over, facing brutal attacks on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1965, after him but, he is reported to have said, ‘If you want to honor me, you should vote.'”

“This is an election like no other, as we are selecting a president and representatives in the midst of a global pandemic,” added Hunter. “With limited polling sites, even less poll workers to staff these sites, polling places far away from many marginalized communities, immigrants who are nervous about being asked for documents that may subject them to further scrutiny and racial profiling, and young adults who just turned 18 or moved to new cities and don’t quite know how to register to vote or request an absentee ballot, this is an opportunity for the church to help everyone participate in the election process.”

Hunter says some in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities may not be able to get to the polls, and some do not have homes where they can have absentee ballots mailed to them. “Some who have had their voting rights restored upon completion of their sentences need help with the complex processes for being able to exercise their right to vote,” she said. “Some without cars do not want to ride a bus during COVID-19 to travel to the polls and others who recently graduated from high school and left the area for college are not sure how to navigate the process. Everyone does not have the privilege of presenting their driver’s license to a clerk in a county clerk’s office and being quickly mailed a voter registration card. For some, this is a very easy process, but not for others.”

“Many Native Americans living on reservations continue to be excluded from the democratic process due to voter suppression laws that keep Native Americans from voting and seeking elected office,” she explained. “In Arizona, for example, Native Americans could not fully participate in voting until 1970, when the Supreme Court upheld the ban against using literacy tests. Today, the right to vote continues to be challenged through the passage of new laws and practices that either fail to consider, disregard or intentionally target BIPOC voters.”

The first of the October Election-Fest events, Compassionate Voting 101, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Oct. 1. The event is open exclusively to all leaders of color. Translation for Spanish- and Korean- speaking siblings will be available. Individual leaders of color may register here.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Common Worship (2018) contains this prayer under the heading “At the Time of an Election”: “Under your law we live, great God, and by your will we govern ourselves. Help us as good citizens to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours, so that without partisan anger, we may work out issues that divide us, and elect candidates to serve the common welfare; through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.”

The RE&WIM October Election-Fest is a part of the Bearing Witness group’s Presbyterian Voting Campaign. The campaign has been created to engage, educate, and motivate people to exercise their right to vote, especially those who are a part of marginalized communities.

Other events sponsored by RE&WIM are by invitation only and include the following activities:

  • Friday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time — Green Faith Voting, part of First-Timer Fridays
    • Geared toward young leaders, first time voters and new immigrants
    • Registration link coming.
  • Thursday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time — Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network Intercultural Voting Dialogue
    • Open to all leaders of color
    • Registration link coming.
  • Friday, Oct 16 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time — Intergenerational Interview
    • Discussion will be recorded and released/posted at that time
    • Conversation between mother and daughter discussing their first-time voting experiences as Native American women.
  • Friday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time — Young Leaders of Color video
    • Geared towards young leaders of color, who will have time to send in videos
    • Videos will answer the question: what is important about this election to you?
    • 15-second videos will be collected and compiled into one video.

The PC(USA)’s Bearing Witness group has this website for its October Voting Campaign. The page already has many resources and will be updated regularly.

This October staff of the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries will be focusing on supporting leaders of color, young adults, and first-time voters. The live and virtual events are open to all intercultural young adults, and two events will be videos posted for the entire church to view. For select events, however, there will be limited space, so that the concerns of new immigrant young adults about documentation, voter suppression, COVID-19, vulnerability and the best way to exercise their right to vote can be addressed safely and compassionately.

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