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Opportunities to Effect Change

Opportunities to Effect Change

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

In the end, this is a blog about opportunities, as well as strategies for engaging “communities that share the same interests” and ways to encourage them to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, social, academic, and civic engagement. Although this blog pulls from my experiences in the organizations listed below, in no way does that render our model ineffective for other non-profits, charitable institutions, businesses, government agencies, or for-profit institutions. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed these strategies effectively applied in just about every organization and effort conceivable. I learned these strategies while working for the institutions listed below and each provided me a unique set of issues, demographics, geographies, and resources to pull from.

Within these organizations we will explore the nuances of “non-ethnic” vs “authentic” engagement tactics and learn if they work or not. We believe the problem a current collaborative faces is that they’re one-dimensional in their approach. Their work is based on an assumption that “non-ethnic” civic behavior is the standard. Therefore, the behavior of people of color is viewed as “deviant” versus being understood as behavior rooted in and reflective of a different set of values, beliefs, experiences and world view.

One problem with this approach is that we fail to recognize opportunities to understand the complex nature of political behavior by people of color. This makes it difficult to learn from experiences that vary from the so-called standard and that makes it almost impossible to put into practice policies that will empower the progressive community to move forward.  Instead, we waste time on forcing a square block into a round hole. We direct resources to develop programs, services, methods and frameworks that ultimately do not deliver the desired outcome and do not develop leaders of color who speak the language of the desired voter. Our approach is different and the blog that I have chosen to write will be rooted in our experiences and presented within that context.

Before yours truly arrived in this town, I had no idea that I would become a Sr. Advisor, Analyst or a Strategist. In fact, I came to Washington more than 20 years ago as an intern in the office of Presidential Personnel. Functioning as an intern at the White House not only expanded my capabilities but also set in motion a series of experiences that laid the foundation for what would become the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result of that opportunity I became a Sr. Advisor for PowerPAC+ where I was groomed to be a political tactician. While there, we perfected our work to transform the nescient “Rising American Electorate” to what is now a driver of American politics. This blog gives an account of that conversion and in what way our approach shaped it.

Our methodology was cultivated by way of my personal journey, from the White House, People For the American Way, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to Common Cause, the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Maryland Leads and PowerPac+. The tactics learned in these organizations consequently develop into a point of reference for most of our handiwork through the decade. Throughout my time in Washington, I’ve toiled and tinkered with many strategies, methods, and systems to create a structure to hang our ideas on while we refine and develop innovative ways to edify the models. Within PowerPAC+, there were five people in particular who were significant in advancing these ideas. At the NAACP there were dozens of leaders, members, activists, unit leaders, state presidents, and board members — including individuals whose anecdotes are recounted later in this blog. Note that each and every one played an important part, especially the board of directors for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and people I regard as friends, they were all ground-breaking innovators who molded these theories and efforts. It is our aspiration that over the course of the next several months you will find something in our learning to help you connect with the information and resources you need to support and further your mission.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Don’t Settle For Less, Students of Color Have Earned An Upgrade #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #B4uVote #EveryStateVoteNow

“Just as love is a verb, so is faith.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

So what’s happening on the ground? Democracy reflects the people’s will, so we must make it easier to vote. After that, we must make sure everyone’s vote is counted. Georgia is in the midst of a concentrated and multilevel civic engagement effort to train, equip, and energize students of color to be future voters. If we are ready for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis, we must embrace students of color. The truth is that candidates that support voting rights (VRA2) could capitalize on these new cultural voting trends and boost voter turnout in “at-risk” communities. 

The use of quantified impression-based targeting, demographic data, and technological enhancements is value-added to traditional civic engagement tools. Still, it’s no substitute for voting rights, education, and economic justice. Supporting voting rights, education, and stimulus legislation make it possible to narrow the gap between the number of eligible voters and the number of actual voters by expanding the electorate. Now students of color may provide enough momentum to energize voters for this and future election cycles. After this, it won’t be long until leaders that support voting rights, education, and economic justice recapture, maintain, and extend their legislative margins in Georgia and other battleground states.

Students of color have the potential to ignite Georgia’s electorate. While fostering collaborations in communities that share the same interests, they generate enthusiasm in the electorate. The “sweet spot” is to engage students that are active offline and encourage them to be more active on-line and “vice versa.” Then, involve these supporters in a push to get their on-line networks to vote and be more involved in long-term civic engagement work like holding elected leaders accountable after the election.

They deserve the best life has to offer and won’t settle for less.

 The impact of students of color on the future of U.S. civic engagement will be huge for years to come. A national study shows VRA2 candidates leading their challengers among 18-29-year-old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting this year. Young voters trust one candidate more than the other to deal with “major issues” like immigration reform 45% – 25%. Among young women, the anti-voting rights candidate loses on issues of concern 53% – 20%.

These numbers are going to be even more critical in U.S. Senate races. In places where VRA2 politicians currently outnumber the others by 10 points, 59% of voters under 30 say that they will vote for VRA2 candidates. Note that in many states, VOC are over 31% of the citizen voting-age population, and they comprised over 28% of the electorate. Places like Georgia are now at the center of the political universe. 

  • As witnessed at the state level in 2012, this rising electorate helped give President Obama 46% (1,773,827) of Georgia’s vote – only a point off his 2008 performance. 
  • More importantly, the VOC vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time.
  • As a result, we now know that a candidate can successfully win a bid for U.S. Senator with support from only 35% of the rural vote.

In blue-collar states like Georgia, economic patriotism is multifaceted and far more complicated than a bumper sticker policy. For example, amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate students of color. Looking deeper, we see how the stimulus package positively impacts young people everywhere. For many of us, having a job provided the sense of independence we needed to be responsible citizens, and after the recession, the stimulus package did the same. If you were lucky enough to have an employed family member before the recession, you not only benefited from their labor but the unemployment supplemental as well.

 Watching our community members provide for their family gave us all a sense of pride and passion for helping each other. That’s probably why the stimulus package was so crucial for young voters in Georgia and other states. It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person gets their first job and votes for the first time. These are two of the early meaningful investments they make to own their future. Not to mention how voting is one of the longest-lasting investments made by young people.

  • Georgia’s House District 111 (35% Black and 6% Latino with a significant youth population). 
  • This seat is in a county that gave President Obama 48% of the vote – just 2,925 votes from victory. 
  • Henry County has grown by 2.5% to 209,053, and cities like Stockbridge grew 2.5% to 26,281. Note that areas like this will have more than 14,000 “key” Voters of Color and could be decisive. Devoting resources to high performing VOC precincts here will give a tremendous return on investment.

What will be the long-term impact? Through redistricting, anti-voting rights politicians controlled politics for a decade. At one point, they held both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, 9 of the fourteen congressional seats, the governorship, and both state legislative bodies. As a result, Georgia residents lived under political leadership that did not represent their interests. Can students of color repair the damage and turn it around? Yes. As the future of Georgia politics begins to take shape, there are new principles in play. These students have paid their dues and earned an upgrade. They deserve the best life has to offer and won’t settle for less. Politicians should match that in actions as well as words.

 To be continued …

 Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Explore Our Talents, Help Students of Color #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #B4uVote #EveryStateVoteNow

“I don’t make records for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don’t today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.” – Marvin Gaye.

 As a student at the University of Cincinnati, I was a member of the Racial Awareness Program (RAPP) – a program created to allow space and structure for students to engage in meaningful intergroup dialogue on issues of race and social justice. Every trimester we would take a retreat to explore race, culture, gender, socioeconomic class, sexuality, and other areas of difference. We would share our personal experiences and build on a shared commitment to creating a more just community. Many meaningful moments stand out, but there’s one that seemed to sum-up our time together. 

 After participating in a weekend of “race awareness” activities, each person was asked what they would do if they could wave a magic wand and create change. A member told the group, “honestly, it may sound shocking, but I would change the history of slavery because things didn’t seem to work out for African Americans.” She did not like how it felt to be a slave during the race awareness activities and was not interested in experiencing this her entire life. Over the next few months, we talked, learned together, and spent time walking in other people’s shoes. 

 By most accounts, she lived a privileged life and was the center of most interactions and institutions she participated in on campus. Even though she genuinely accepts others and is a quick study, she didn’t have much background knowledge of race relations. She didn’t have prerequisite familiarity and competences in key cultural areas, including civic engagement, education, and systemic racism, which inhibited her social justice development. To help her make that connection, we spent our time together discovering where these gaps of awareness and understanding were. We then put in a lot of work, plugging these holes with culturally relevant experiences and information to better understand issues. The goal was to begin the process of providing a substantial understanding of our culture in nine months.

 Ending systemic racism is a long and deliberate effort. Our teachers must first acknowledge it exists, then research and learn culturally relevant curricula. Educators have to teach students to be antiracists deliberately. Lastly, we must develop lesson plans from the student of color’s perspective to address generational trauma and social-economic justice issues. We need an evidence-based teaching strategy that embraces our differences and enriches our learning experiences. Using a distinctive approach like this means that we empathize with students of color and understand their experiences as our responsibility too. By recognizing the personal experiences they come to school with, we connect their past state of fluctuation, education, and abilities to the convergence of their everyday lives.

 My grandmother said it best. She would say, “everyone is blessed with at least one unique talent. Take time now to discover, define, and develop your talent. Don’t go to your grave with your untapped talent buried inside you.” Her point was that all students of color have unique capabilities. The key to helping them succeed is to engage in inspiring activities that capitalize on their educational experiences. While doing so, we unearth their talent by being familiar with the disparities from many heritages — cultural, socioeconomic, racial, and sex. We have to reach out to each other, regardless of our distinctive culture contrasts, enthusiasm, or particular kinships. This will fundamentally bring about change for every student — students who arrive in our schoolrooms each year, and potentially those who do not.

Students are extraordinarily capable individuals, and they can accomplish amazing feats if we inspire and support them.

 Fundamental change is what it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. Last week I spent time talking with my NAACP mentee while he was on the campaign trail, and we explored this issue. We spoke about past civil rights campaigns the “good old days.” After I told him a story about my time in Toledo, Ohio, and the 1964 Rambler I drove, he teased me. We laughed about how the passenger side floorboard had rusted out, and I would drive over puddles, so no one wanted to ride shotgun when it rained. We talked about the places I would go to and how owning my first car gave us a sense of empowerment. Even though they got wet occasionally, passengers benefited too.

 We talked about how Ohioans have and always will rely on jobs from places like the auto industry and the recent stimulus package. As voters, students of color know what it means to have family members working over fifty-five hours a week on a Jeep line in Toledo. Now that we’ve lost so many jobs, those workers need help making ends meet. Maybe that’s why voters are so disappointed about politicians failing to pass a stimulus package. Like the stimulus package, the auto industry supports 1 of every eight jobs in Ohio, and many of these jobs are essential for students of color.

 Amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate civic engagement. After seeing how this impacts students of color, I started to wonder what the stimulus package’s long-term effects would be in places like Ohio and Georgia. Will this widening opportunity divide in public education, economic justice, and healthcare play out similarly in both states?

  • Voters of color make up 33% of Georgia’s registered voters (30% Black, 2% Latino, and 1% Asian).
  • Georgia has over 850,000 Latino residents, and 26% are eligible to vote.
  • Nationally close to 52,000 Latinos turn 18 every month, and 9 out of 10 of those are eligible to vote.
  • Latinos will account for 52% of Georgia’s new eligible voters.

Looking at a new study, it seems that the U.S. is on track to have a similar electorate as 2008, where the youth made up 18% of the vote. As witnessed on the state level in 2008, an energized student of color electorate gave President Obama the victory in Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey (Georgia was close). While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number in Virginia was 21%.

  • New Jersey’s Hudson county population grew by 4% to 634,266, and the Jersey City population increased 3% to 247,597. 
  • This is a substantial majority of Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 key VOC.

Diversity in the electorate is good for our democracy. Students of color are key voters, and as demographics shift, with culture and community necessities transforming in the next decade, our politics will as well. First, our political leaders must listen carefully to students of color. Educators must keep an open mind while being persistent in constantly assembling and teaching evidence-based information and data. Lastly, future employers must analyze their approach and methodology to cultivate talent and help students of color thrive after they graduate. We must pin our ears back, reflect on our past, and encourage students of color to achieve their aspirations. Students are extraordinarily capable individuals, and they can accomplish amazing feats if we inspire and support them.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Pour On The Passion, Students of Color Can Amplify Our Success #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote #EveryStateVoteNow

“Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” – Marvin Gaye.

I remember my first time participating in a Presidential Inauguration. My grandmother and I volunteered for the Clinton / Gore ’92 Presidential campaign early in the election cycle, and we received inaugural ball tickets allowing us to attend the big dance. Later, she signed us up to help with the event set up. Nervous about beating the closing time for renting a tuxedo, I was less than enthusiastic about how long “bag stuffing” was taking. My grandmother pulled me aside and reminded me, “Pour on the passion and put your heart into everything you do. A lukewarm effort produces mediocre results. If you pour on the passion, you’ll experience an intense success in all your achievements.” She was right. The harder I work, the better I felt. The more passionate I became, the better I performed. It benefitted me later in life — I joined the D.N.C. as a campaign trainer. My passion allowed me to successfully lead regional trainings for presidential campaign managers for the 1996 presidential campaign.

What it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis? While having a conversation with an NAACP mentee, I pointed out how authentic, passionate, and righteous movements attract hardworking “pro-public education” advocates and students of color. What’s more important to understand is that to cultivate passionate young movement leaders, we must be careful to have faith in these students’ interests and nurture their natural propensity to question authority. It’s easy to forget that as we push them to support a “traditional” agenda, they will be less active and take up less space civically. So, loosening institutional “vintage” policies and allow the students to make adjustments to civic engagement programs from time to time is key. Instead of pushing standard concepts on students of color, let them choose from a list of essential issues that match their passion. Design cooperative valuations that establish connections with the institution’s overarching principles and allow students to support naturally aligned issues.

For example, amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate civic mentorships. By expanding the leadership pool as mentors, we are molding students of color to take leadership of our movements. While learning from them how it works, we’ll be demonstrating what we value. As a result of meeting them where they are, we transform their analytical perspicacity as we compensate for our lagging activism indicators. In the long run, creating diverse methods to improve the capability of students of color will boost civic engagement performance while they learn to deliberate more meaningfully, judiciously, and forcefully.

A prosperous society is built on a nucleus of hardworking, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy people.

A well resourced public education, economic justice, and a robust healthcare system are key to grow our community. This is why choosing political leaders are the most critical exercises in judgment a nation performs. It offers a rare view of the nation’s core values and beliefs. For example, students of color would be in terrible shape if politicians defunded public education, repealed our current healthcare system, and changed Medicare for the worse. As a result, we would see this impact on everyone’s daily lives in our communities, including our seniors.

Of the 47 million Americans covered by Medicare or Medicare Advantage, the elderly makeup most of our nation’s most vulnerable who depend on the red, white, and blue Medicare card. This economic policy has significant real-life implications. Before it was inception in 1965, one in three seniors lived in poverty, many having spent their life savings on costly medical care. Today, only one in six older adults are in poverty due to medical cost. Medicare has made a difference.

Many experts note that the senior voting block is one of the most educated and active constituencies in politics. Therefore, this provides us with an exceptional opportunity to discuss the need for a balanced approach to America’s health and financial security.

Further, Medicare is one of the best issues for debating the role and size of the government. Shrinking the current size and function of healthcare may affect our economy. A recent study underscores how serious Medicare’s issue is for senior voters — especially voters of color. According to the survey-

 ● Two-thirds of Latino and Three-Fourths of African American senior voters plan to rely on Medicare even more due to the economy’s state.

 ● 49% of Latinos and 35% of African Americans are not confident that Medicare will be there for them and future generations.

 ● 90% of Latinos and 97% of African Americans say the next President and Congress need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

 ● 97% of Latinos and 98% of African Americans believe political leaders need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

To get a better sense of Medicare’s significance, I remember a conversation with my Grandma. “Baby, these politicians will tell you anything to get elected. The truth is, I now get several benefits after Obamacare.”

She reminded me of how the family struggled to help her pay prescription costs until she started receiving the discounts. “Remember how you were shocked at the bill? I think it’s called closing the doughnut hole.” We also talked about how seniors now get free wellness visits and the limit on out of pocket costs for things like co-pays. She shot back, “how will it work if they repeal it?”

I couldn’t answer that because I haven’t seen a new healthcare plan to replace Obamacare. I’ve seen “A Pledge to America” in 2010, but nothing happened. No wonder these politicians have some of the lowest approval ratings in history; at times, only 10% of Americans approved their job. According to the study, more than 62% of Latinos and 67% of African American senior voters disapprove of these politicians.

That’s why it’s so interesting that our seniors feel abandoned – 64% of Latino and 65% of African American seniors believe their economic circumstances have been negatively affected by these politicians. Also, 88% of Latinos and 93% of African Americans think Medicare is critical to maintaining their health.

Those two numbers may indicate why politicians are having such a hard time connecting with voters on a personal level. A reported 74% of Latinos and 80% of African American seniors say “learning the politician’s plans on strengthening and reforming” Medicare would help them decide who to vote for. Yet 48% of Latinos and 39% of African American seniors say politicians are not doing a good job explaining their plans to strengthen and or reform Medicare. To them, if you don’t have a comprehensive healthcare plan, people may take it to mean you’re hiding something.

Are V.O.C. in swing states paying attention to this debate? Will Americans vote for the person they trust? To figure this out, we should look to states like Nevada, where the country gained a Congressional seat and an electoral vote after the 2010 census.

  • V.O.C. now makes up 28% of the citizen voting-age population, and 60% of them are registered to vote.
  • V.O.C. represented 26% of the electorate in 2008, and that number jumped to 29% in 2010.
  • That year, Latinos represented 16% of the vote share, and 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. While North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 and now has over 46,000 “key” V.O.C. in the area, it will take plenty of resources to engage this electorate.
  • Note that 88% of Nevada’s baby boomers disapprove of the job these politicians are doing, and 93% believe they need to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

For over 46 years, Medicare has made a difference for millions of Americans. It is one government program that has worked so well that people don’t think it’s a government program at all. Many seniors say that “if I didn’t have Medicare, doctor bills could wipe me out and put a burden on my kids.” Paying six thousand dollars more for insurance may not sound like much, but if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you’re already counting every penny, that is serious money.

Each voter must make deliberate choices about who we will support, which means weighing and mulling over each option. After a lot of tough decisions, we will cast our vote and live with the consequences. As my Grandma said, “I don’t care about getting credit for being the generation that created Medicare.” All that matters is that it works, and everyone has access to it when we need it. She reminded me that we all stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They taught us that America works best when we all passionately help each other become successful. A prosperous society is built on a nucleus of hardworking, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy people. Trust is important. The thing is, “you can’t buy trust; you earn it.”

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Destroy The Doubt, Students of Color Can Effect Change #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“High standards can be contagious. But it doesn’t necessarily happen through osmosis. Sometimes you have to budge people into doing the right thing—either by example or in a more obvious way.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

While growing up, I was taught that my community’s injustices could be fixed if I engaged in the electoral process. However, after spending considerable time volunteering to register voters, I didn’t see the immediate impact. Since I didn’t notice things changing in my neighborhood, I couldn’t see how civic engagement was useful. I shared my feelings with the local NAACP youth and college division director, and she gave me some advice. “First, you must eliminate the doubt that you can effect change, then we will receive what we are due, and justice will be done.” Her point to me was that we have to release the doubt that we can create change and accept the challenge to change what we consider unacceptable, then we will see the impact.

Like the time I volunteered to stuff envelopes for Marcy Kaptur’s Congressional campaign. It was my first experience campaigning, and I spent hours licking and sticking stamps before mailing them at the post office. I wanted to make a difference and help create social change by being active civically for women issues. At the time, there was an awe-inspiring movement in U.S. politics to diversify political leadership — electing more African Americans, women, and young people to office. Perhaps it was the legacy of passing the voting rights act or just the natural next step in our political evaluation, but I wanted to be a part of it. 

“I don’t vote because we don’t see the immediate impact.” I heard a young activist say while the group was eating dinner between shifts. She was right, and we would hear statements like that while talking with peers about voting. “Okay then, how can we persuade students of color to awaken and create long-term impact?” When students of color are inspired, they tend to be connected, remarkable and resourceful activists. If we link their issues, values, and inspiration to our life experiences and relationships, they will see their vote’s impact. The point was that we knew from experience when students of color understand the consequences of their actions and take personal responsibility for addressing an issue; their core values are inspirationally motivated. 

We must widen the circle of freedom so that all realize the American promise of liberty and justice for all.

Amid today’s persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must not separate everyday life relevance or prospective influence from civic engagement. I recently talked with a past NAACP mentee about what it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. We agreed that it has been like pushing a car up a hill in the sweltering heat. The truth is that voting is one of the most important vehicles that Americans have to get from one place in life to another and influence the policies that affect our lives. Therefore, when people need help voting, we should make every effort to help them because it makes our democracy work better.

I wish that were the logic behind restrictive voting laws that cut early in-person and vote by mail. These laws limit the days you can vote by changing the deadline for voters to vote by mail or early vote in-person. They turn a blind eye to the millions of voters who historically vote during the early vote days before Election Day. It dampens early-voters’ impact by impeding voters of color who plan to take advantage of that last few weekends. That’s why it’s essential to help voters cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse. This increases civic participation and strengthens our democracy until we pass a law making Election Day a holiday with same-day registration.

As we know, voting early and voting by mail helps to ease the long lines on Election Day — something that makes headlines every election cycle. In 2000, the lines were so long in many places around the country that precincts closed before voters could cast their ballot. Nearly a million voters—close to 3% of all registered voters—had this experience. This led to legal contests in St. Louis, which affected Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. By closing the polling places before everyone in line was able to vote, many voters were disenfranchised. Voters who made extraordinary efforts to go to the polls were denied ballots due to no fault of their own.

Each of the nearly 200,000 polling places nationwide will handle about 500 voters on Election Day. Since we only have about 700,000 workers at the polls, early voting and voting by mail effectively ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. In 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohio voters cast ballots early – close to 30% of all ballots. Election Days are predicted to be more taxing for the foreseeable future as America gears up for record-breaking voter turnout due to the nation’s demographic shift. This is especially of concern for students of color.

According to a recent civic engagement report, Voters of Color (VOC) could turn out at an even higher future rate. 

  • The study proposes that if African-American registration rises to 78.3%, we could see 3 million more African American voters. 
  • The Latinx community grew to 50 million in 2010 while the Asian American – Pacific Islander (AAPI) population increased to 5.2% of the national population. 
  • If those demographic trends materialize, VOC could make up more than 23% of the eligible electorate.

There is a significant VOC population in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. These states were anti-public education strongholds until recently. Also, each state became more pro-public education as the demographics began to change. There is strong evidence that political geography is why pro-public education leaders improved their 2000 electoral performance by more than seven points in each state. Moreover, experts believe that Virginia’s and Nevada’s recent purple propensities are powered by 55% and 71% AAPI growth since 2000.

Population growth is an essential factor in predicting turnout. The voting laws in Ohio are based on the misconception that VOC will not be 17% of the electorate. As an unintended consequence, Ohio may disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Worst yet, this will turn a blind eye to the profound and chronic problems of race and discrimination in voting practices. 

What is the most important thing we can do to cultivate a civic engagement mindset for students of color? Collective, evidence-based, and reflective systems change essential. Based on data, their involvement, capabilities, and conversations within peer groups, we can inspire and motivate young people to vote. We must assess our nation’s successes and failures, fine-tune our approach to democracy, and start all over again where necessary. This practice will allow us to improve exponentially year after year. Our ultimate goal should be to help students of color manage and advocate for themselves, elect leaders that share their interests, and pass laws that expand democracy to every American. We must widen the circle of freedom so that all realize the American promise of liberty and justice for all.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Love The Skin You Are In, Educating Students of Color #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“A lot of people endured a lot of hardship, humiliation, suffering, and pain. The least I can do is be my best, live my best life, and treat myself and my surroundings with respect.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

I remember my first day interning at the White House. It was 1994, and I was assigned to the Presidential Personnel Office. After barely setting my desk up, I was alerted that all interns would meet in the auditorium for a quick briefing before the day started. I arrived as quickly as possible and grabbed a seat. Before the session began, I was pulled aside by an African American staffer. “To get the most of this experience, you must love the skin you are in. You are God’s Divine Design. He does not make mistakes. Don’t get caught up in wanting to be or trying to be like someone else. Everyone is gifted in different ways. Love being you.” Those words changed my life. I later learn that my grandmother asked her to watch after me, she worked in the dining room, and she lived in southeast Washington, DC.

My supervisor was from Arkansas and the White House Political Director. I enjoyed having a desk across from him. His job was to process SES, Schedule Cs, and Ambassadorships positions, and I was the only intern in the office. He was a senior staffer, one of the First Lady’s best friends, and always meeting with interesting people. After the first month and my workload began to slow down, he would occasionally invite me to eat lunch with him. “What’s your background?” “Where are you from?” At first, I felt his questions were pushy, and I didn’t know how much to share, so I froze up and couldn’t even remember my name, let alone my biography — generational trauma will sometimes do that. One day at lunch, my grandmother’s friend notice how uncomfortable I was, pulled me aside, and reminded me just to be myself. I followed her advice and began discussing shared values, connected with him, and the rest of my internship was terrific. From then on, we spent most of our alone time pondering, evaluating, and theorizing on American politics. I learned a lot discussing Washington Post articles with him, but most importantly, I felt like I belonged in the White House.

What I learned that summer is that no matter your background, gender, race, or religion, your success largely depends on opportunity, talent, and rapport. I learned how hard it is for a student of color to process workplace microaggressions. However, my supervisor demonstrated a willingness to connect with me and created space to engage him. Note that this form of exchange will be particularly beneficial for students of color during this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. Amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate mentorships.

We must not compromise the promise of freedom, equality, and justice, especially if it compromises our democracy.

Recently I was talking with a past NAACP mentee about what it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. “A well-resourced and strong public education system.” His point was that a thorough, reflective, and individualized process for educating young people on civics principles would help. Also, we agreed that there is a need to expand democracy to include more significant numbers of young voters of color. 

For example, a diverse electorate may help to stem a wave of “voter suppression” laws, executive orders, and voting impostor laws in multiple states. Thankfully, the Department of Justice has the power to interrupt these regressive efforts by not granting a clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — first passed in 1965 to outlaw voting practices that disenfranchised thousands of Americans. States with both (a) “tests” or “devices” that restricted the opportunity to register and vote and (b) less than 50% voter registration or voter turnout can no longer make changes concerning voting without “clearance” from the Department of Justice. This includes everything from redistricting, purging voter rolls, and changing polling places.

That’s the idea, but here we are, years later, in the 21st century, and politicians are still making it difficult for Americans to participate in democracy. According to a recent report, since 2011, more dozens of states have passed or attempted to pass laws and executive orders that disenfranchise voters of color. In Florida, the governor is pressing election officials to purge voter rolls with citizenship discrepancies – an action in the past that yielded a list of thousands of people of color. This process had a 78% error rate, and hundreds of people were wrongly purged. In the past, these actions produced federal lawsuits by the Department of Justice that claimed the violation of federal voting laws.

Remember the “pregnant chads” of 2000 that became the determining factor for a 534 vote presidential victory. During that same election cycle, Florida’s Secretary of State ordered election supervisors to purge ex-felons from the voter lists. This list “flagged” more than 90,000 names, of which close to 60,000 were purged. More than 54% of the list were people of color, and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 to create standards for states to follow while updating outdated voting systems.

What will our democracy gain from implementing laws that will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color?

  • Florida voters of color make up 29% of the voting-age population, and 69% are registered to vote. In 2008, voters of color were 28% of the electorate, although more than a third did not vote.
  • In Texas, Latinos accounted for 65% of the State’s growth between 2000 and 2010.
  • Among young voters between the ages of 18 and 19-year-olds, over 60% are people of color and 41% Latino.
  • Houston grew by 7.5% to 2,099,451 with over 400,000 “Key” VOC. Harris County has over 800,000 registered VOC.

Our country needs everyone’s help to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. Learning to love the skin you are in is a practice through which students of color and this country can redirect our social awareness and cultivate culturally competent civic, academic, and life strategies. It means engaging with each other to reflect on difficult issues and developing solutions. As mentors, we must be careful not to dissuade students from engaging in self-analysis even if we are not sure of the consequences. Quite the opposite, they will benefit from learning about themselves, and we should help them develop those strategies and ensure that the playing field is leveled for them. We are a nation of three hundred million Americans, and we all love this country. Therefore, there is no excuse for denying students of color opportunities to shape America. We must not compromise the promise of freedom, equality, and justice, especially if it compromises our democracy.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Just Give Students Of Color What You Want #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate” – Marvin Gaye.

I can remember the first “Rooftop Pajama Jam Card Tournament,” I hosted in college. Our university was celebrating a major athletic victory in college basketball – we made it to the NCAA’s Final Four Tournament. I was president of the Caucus to Improve Black Affairs, and my peers wanted to do something special on campus to bring the African American students together to chill. We debated what food to serve, movie to play, and what issues we would share with the school community during the planning. Our basketball team was scheduled to play soon, and students were debating whether the basketball team should stay in the locker room as a form of protest. A dorm Resident Advisor (RA) said it best “Just give college athletes what you want. When you give others what they want and need, everyone will paradoxically receive what we want and need. If you wish to have power, empower others. If you want money, give money. If you want praise and recognition, give praise and recognition. What we do for others will be done for us, so if you want to see them play, we’ve got to pay.” This statement reflected how many students of color felt but not every member of the Racial Awareness Piloting Program (RAPP) felt the same way. 

“What you don’t understand is that you people should be happy to even be in the big dance.” I quickly moved to close out the conversation after that statement because we all began to feel the microaggressions taking control of the debate. The question is, what steers people to accomplish greatness in life — students of color in particular? Leading scholars would say that the righteousness of a person’s aptitude is a considerable driver. Successful students of color indicate that perseverance, purpose, and thirst for living free of the fear of poverty, violence, and untimely death are big motivations. Whatever the driver, an academic achievement often pushes African American students to use actions, art, and words to validate themselves.

Moreover, this “righteousness frame of mind” helps students of color overcome the generational trauma they live with every day. Spoken words have meaning; they attach consequences to the capabilities and actions of the people hearing them. Over time words can contribute to or detract from educational success for students of color. Yes, the human spirit is flexible and effective communication, if used appropriately, can enhance learning. Positive language indeed gives students a general feeling of purpose, and there is a clear relationship with accomplishments at school. It makes sense that encouraging language would promote positive actions, better performance, better grades, and a stronger community. What about negative language?

When we give others what they want and need, everyone will paradoxically receive what we want and need.

Living in a community of color during this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis makes it easy to see how the lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare impacts society. I see how microaggressions and words of hate play out in real-time. The use of language in a way that, if called to question, the offender can deny any intent to disrespect others. The use of terms and or remarks about issues to spark a reaction. Underneath this is a subtle reference to values in a manner that manipulates American society.

What’s worse is that tactics like this bring out the worse in all of us. The use of shock to motivate one group of people also triggers a downward spiral that adds to civic dysfunction and encourages hateful language and ineffective policies. It’s an outrage that during one of the most challenging periods in American history, we are held hostage. Unlike the bipartisan response to the financial crisis in 2008, there has not been a real attempt to legislate compassionately.

What’s clear to me is that something changed in 1994, and American politics has not been the same since. Remember, after 40 years of one-party control of the house, politicians developed a strategy to win at all costs, and they won. Now, the philosophy of “say anything to win” has become a mandate, and only the American voter can break this cycle. Will politicians attempt to manipulate voters with the use of fear and hateful language? Will they use wedge issues to mobilize their base?

I think back to the 2006 elections when these extremists unleashed a harsh “cultural war” to get their base to vote. The political atmosphere is similar to that of today. However, there’s strong evidence that things may be different this time. We’ve had many years of new registrants, and many young voters plus voters of color (VOC) will return to the electorate.

This political geography is highlighted in majority-minority cities like Norfolk.

  • Norfolk’s population grew 3.4% to 242,803. 
  • This increase gives Norfolk more than 83,000 “key” Voters of Color. 
  • People of Color are 26% of Virginia’s Citizen Voting Age Population. They were 24% of vote share in 2008 and about 23% in 2010.

What can we do to help? We must encourage students of color to build networks of compassionate connections. Studies show that the more positive the school community, the more successful the students. These include have conversations with educators and friends that mostly strengthen them — this is essential to their success. If a youth coalition of consciousness came together to demanded honest and trustworthy leadership, we could revitalize and expand our democracy. The truth is, we all love our country, and that means every community in it. That’s what motivates most Americans to be compassionate. Hateful language will not help us bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. When we give others what they want and need, everyone will paradoxically receive what we want and need.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Create Yes We Can Students of Color #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Education and justice are democracy’s only life insurance.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

Texas was the sight of one of my most memorable Congressional campaigns. I remember hitting the ground and not being sure where I should begin. This was a special election, and the voter’s last opportunity to voice their preference for representation. I lived in Beaumont, but Galveston Island was my headquarters and base of operation. I chose this location because of Juneteenth, and it’s a great historical significance for the African American community. Also, it had a large youth population — I had a theory that people of color would be essential in a low turnout election like this, and I figured young voters of color would be necessary to turn that key. 

My first contact was with a group called A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). Attending an emergency meeting, I walk into a heated discussion between a senior woman in charge of youth outreach and a middle-aged gentleman in control of its finances. “Yes, we can train students of color to take the lead in that precinct. We need them because we are shorthanded.” Her point was simple, “don’t impose thoughts of lack and limitation on these students of color.” When we think they can, they will believe they can. When we erase our doubt in their ability, they will face this challenge with confidence and a yes-we-can attitude.

She was also hitting on another truism – Americans are resourceful. In particular, we are witnessing “true resourcefulness” from communities of color during this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. Especially from civil rights institutions like the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Urban League, NCBCP, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies with their fearsome, seemingly everlasting civic engagement programs and innovative mobilization instruments. It may be hard to believe, but this has been the case for many years. It’s not just civic engagement, healthcare, and economic justice; our work has had a tremendous impact on public education. Admittedly, our public schools have not made it to the “Promised Land” yet; we are a lot closer to achieving our high aspirations. Now students of color are not just learning to read, write, and mathematics; they are becoming self-advocates, social managers, and financially literate. They are mastering sophisticated tools that will create systems change now and in the future.

As the A. Philip Randolph youth outreach director later explained, “We must develop and invest in their education and proficiency because our existing paradigm as it relates to social safety nets like healthcare are unjust.” Therefore, our education aspiration has to be culturally competent to understand, preserve, and enlighten all people’s intelligence. Our lesson plans must be both student-focused and grounded by evidence-based scholarship principles that transform livelihoods. 

When we think they can, they will believe they can. Yes, We Can.

A past Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070, and The Affordable Care Act is similar to another significant moment in American history–the Court’s ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education case. That ruling profoundly impacted every person in the country and helped move this country forward regarding civil rights, social justice, and equality.

Like the 1950s, it was hard to measure the impact that decision would have on this country’s social fabric and the world at the time of the decision. We are now witnessing those results, and for many voters of color (VOC), those rulings are a strong signal that there is hope. Moreover, the fact that there may be at least one new Justice to the Supreme Court in the near future gives people of color even more reasons to be encouraged. Note that our civic engagement will help appoint someone to make landmark decisions that can move our country forward.

Like 2012, healthcare will be a significant issue for igniting greater civic engagement among students of color. According to a Gallup survey then, 21% of Latino registered voters rated healthcare as one of their top priorities. In states like Texas, 20% of children in the country had no health coverage, and 37% of Latinos didn’t have health insurance. Many adults living in major metro areas around the state are uninsured: Beaumont-Port Arthur area—26%, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area–24%, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area–21%, San Antonio area–18%, Austin-Round Rock area –18%. Interestingly enough, these metro areas still have significantly high Latino and African American populations.

Census data show the Latino population increased by 15 million in 2010, and 20% of that growth happened in Texas. People of Color are already the majority in Texas, and they believe in healthcare and public education.

  • Latinos made up about 25% of the state’s new registrants in 2009 and 2010. 
  • People of Color represented 54% of the state’s total population and 41% of the citizen voting-age population (CVAP). 
  • They represented 40% of registered voters and just a little more than 19% of frequent voters. However, over 3 million registered Latino and African American voters stayed home in 2010. 

Imagine what would happen if Latino turnout went from 24% to 49% and African American turnout from 35% to 49%. Together, we could add over 1 million more VOCs, which would be the difference in areas where so many VOCs are uninsured. For example, Fort Worth grew by 38% to 741,206 and now has over 140,000 registered “Key” VOC with close to 95,000 infrequent voters. If adequately resourced, and the electorate continues to expand, we may see a significant voter turnout increase. These voters may vote for more pro-public education and healthcare reform leaders. This would put TX’s 38 electoral votes in play for future elections.

No one is entirely sure how voters will respond to this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. The truth is that The Affordable Care Act was an example of politicians getting something done. First, it was voted out of Senate Committee with bipartisan support, then passed with two independent politicians and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Are students of color the key to winning this battle over civil and human rights? Will they light the fire of social justice and change our nation for the better? I have confidence that they can do it. They are better situated to have an impact now more than ever. For one, they are skilled end-users of informative data, consuming it directly from social media. Second, they have a great awareness of unique cultural systems, instruments, and trustworthy institutions’ methods. Lastly, students of color are conscious of the need to embrace hope and play a part in shaping our nation’s future in a way that will help people dealing with hardships. When we think they can, they will believe they can. Yes, We Can.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Take On A Student Of Color Protégé #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Art is a way of possessing destiny.” — Marvin Gaye 

I remember the first time I taught at a public high school of color – a public school with a significant people of color population. The school was entirely male and majority African American. I spent two hours before the bell reviewing for my first lesson – I wanted to be the perfect teacher. The entire morning I sat in my classroom rehearsing my introduction, classroom management strategies, and the lesson plan. Then the bell rang, and lessons from my Grandfather came to conscience. “Young people need someone to mold, motivate, and mentor them. Just help them exemplify the interests, attitude, and enthusiasm worthy of influence, and the rest will take care of itself.” 

He was right; our career accomplishments, life experiences, and values should inform and influence school lesson plans. Every one of us remembers a teacher who made us work harder and inspired us to achieve great things based on hard work. In turn, the rapport and relationships built during those moments became energy for our subsequent aspirations. Moreover, networking with an experienced person — accomplished in the area of our passion — was enormously influential. Sitting in class, sharing ideas, and providing feedback to one another gave us access to incredible success opportunities.

As a secondary benefit, my colleagues tell me that educators gain a great deal from mentoring students of color. Working through an alumni mentorship program creates a meaningful connection for both the teacher and student while giving experienced educators a chance to contemplate and restructure their teaching approach. This enriches and informs future school work for both, so everyone benefits from “collective synergy.”

To be successful, we must not compromise the promise of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare — especially if it compromises diversity.

How can we inform, translate, and connect education to communities of color during the global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis? Would a mentorship program be correspondingly constructive for educators, students of color, and alumni when we are social distance learning? 

Recently I was talking with a protégé about the connection between civics, education, and financial independence. During that conversation, we began talking about the virtues of expanding democracy to include more voters via census, reapportionment, and redistricting. The concept is that an accurate census count will create a diverse electorate and help to pass a pro-public education policy. Therefore, civic engagement could lead to quality education for students of color.

We must acknowledge that many states have a history of practicing “voter suppression” laws, especially during census years, justifying Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to outlaw voting practices that disenfranchised thousands of Americans. States with both (a) “tests” or “devices” that restricted the opportunity to register and vote and, (b) less than 50% voter registration or voter turnout no longer make changes concerning voting without “clearance” from the Department of Justice. This includes everything from redistricting to polling places.

More than two dozen states have passed or attempted to pass laws and executive orders that disenfranchise voters. At one point in Florida, the governor pressed election officials to identify non-U.S. citizens on the voting rolls. The list of 2700 people comprised mostly of people of color, was found to have a 78% error rate. More than 500 people on the list were later identified as actual citizens. 

Do you remember “pregnant chads” in the 2000 Presidential Election and the subsequent 534 decision? During that same election, Florida’s Secretary of State ordered election supervisors to purge ex-felons from the voter lists. Experts later reported that the file “flagged” close to 91,000 names, of which more than 57,000 were purged. More than half of the list—54%—was African American and Latino. This prompted Congress to pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 to create standards for states to follow and update outdated voting systems. Each State transitioned to electronic voter lists.

What are the essential questions in the minds of students of color? Can they help the U.S. bounce back from this crisis, communicate their interests, and accelerate social change? My advice is to believe in the righteousness of your issues, civic engagement, and get active. For Example, Florida and Texas have undergone political, racial, and geographical transformation.

  • Florida voters of color make up 29% of the voting-age population, and 69% are registered to vote. 
  • In 2008, voters of color were 28% of the electorate, although more than a third did not vote — Imagine the impact if all who are eligible to vote were mobilized and voted.

The same is true for Texas, where the Latino population accounted for 65% of the State’s growth between 2000 and 2010. 

  • Among young voters between the ages of 18 and 19-year-olds, 60% are people of color and 41% Latino. 
  • Census data shows that Houston grew by 7.5% to 2,099,451 — Imagine what could happen if 814,000 registered VOC in Harris County voted. Especially in places like Houston, where there are over 400,000 “Key” VOC.

Ultimately, as every teacher knows, positive relationships are essential for everyone, and the United States is essentially a network of 300 million. Therefore we must develop strategies to nurture culturally competent connections, engage in courageous conversations, and forge relationships with students of color to ensure that the playing field is level. Our country needs every person to prosper to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. To be successful, we must not compromise the promise of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare — especially if it compromises diversity.

 To be continued …

 Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Students of Color Can Exercise Their Rights, Mind, and Body #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Crime is increasing, trigger happy…, Panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading.”– Marvin Gaye

 During my first year of coaching in the public school system, I invited a colleague from the NAACP to team up on an innovative education experiment. We wanted to test what would happen if student-athletes were simultaneously trained in social advocacy and self-management while learning to play a sport? Our guiding principles were “Exercise your right to vote. Exercise your ability to change your life. Exercise your body for better health. Exercise your mind by expanding your knowledge. Get Active and make time to exercise #GA123.” Our question was simple, how would this impact a student of color’s learning experience? What if that student lives in a neighborhood negatively affected by economic insecurity, racial trauma, and health issues? How can playing sports help them?

 Recognizing, not all students of color have the same awareness, we were careful to build our curriculum around leadership development theories. Does leadership matter in education? We learned that as students learned leadership skills, they became skilled at managing their stress levels, increasing their academic engagement intensity, and improving their social connections for better interpersonal relationships. In the process, we were able to help them assess, cultivate and mitigate stressful and traumatic concerns in their lives while pushing them to help their peers to achieve more in school, home, and the sports arena. In this time of global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis – leadership is an essential skill. 

Exercise your right to vote. Exercise your ability to change your life. Exercise your body for better health. Exercise your mind by expanding your knowledge. Get Active and make time to exercise

As we trained these students of color on leadership development, we began to lay the groundwork for social advocacy — educating, engage, and energizing 18 -29 year-olds in civic engagement. As we began to pull together data for our study on civic engagement trends, we noticed a connection between civics, education, and financial independence. We believe that there is a significant connection between their enthusiasm level and the “change quotient.” Therefore, the U.S. may bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis in record time.

We can see this in places like Missouri — where the civic, education, and financial trend lines are supporting these dynamic issues and will soon have a quantifiable impact. Its unfortunate politicians who agree that the U.S. is suffering from an education crisis, can’t work together to prevent schoolwide health, finance, and civic crisis. This rancorous environment is similar to the 2006 midterm elections when pro-public education leaders took control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. That year, young people were 15% of Missouri’s electorate, and the Senator won by just 45,000 votes. I know from experience – I led a statewide campaign in Missouri, and public education activist was the “signal in the noise.”

 Students of color will support any leader who will stand up for them in these tough times. A recent poll confirms that they are a driving sector in a new “coalition conscience” — Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, and Young Voters. According to the poll, a clear majority (over 55%) of 18-29-year-olds believe “elected officials don’t have the same priorities I have.” They also think that politics has become too partisan (over 49%). What’s worse is that 59% believe that “elected officials” seem to be motivated by selfish reasons,” and only 24% reported “liking” a political candidate on Facebook.

 In 2008, the youth voter turnout was driven mostly by a surge in Latino and African American youth.

  • 42% and 39% of young Latino women and men voted. 
  • Over 52% of African American youth between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in 2008– the highest turnout rate among youth. 
  • Young voters were 21% of Missouri’s electorate– President Obama missed winning MO by just 39,000 votes, then VOC increased their 13% vote share to 19% in 2010.

Students of color understand the relationship between civics, education, and financial independence, and there will be ample opportunity for them to exercise their civic voice in the future. Young African Americans and Latinos are more than 15% and 18% of the total youth population. In 2020, Young People of Color will be over 37% percent of the 18-24 voting-age population. Kansas City, Missouri, grew by 4.1% to 459,787 and is now close to 40% POC, of which many voters are under 29. They know that being registered to vote makes you relevant. Also, students of color now know that sidestepping civic responsibilities can create a leadership vacuum that will suck the hope out of the political process.

 Leadership is an essential skill, especially in this time of global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crises. While there is no way to train every student of color on strategies for navigating the complex relationships between social advocacy, self-management, and sports, we must try. The truth is that a good leader will find ways to develop, highlight, and contribute to all students’ success. As students learn how civic engagement impacts their economic security, racial trauma, and health — their influence will extend through their interests and affect education policy for every American. Let’s help them exercise their right to vote.

 To be continued …

 Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Inquire Within, Help Students of Color Cultivate Inner Wisdom #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Politics and hypocrites is turning us all into lunatics.” — Marvin Gaye

The great author Ralph Ellison wrote, “I’m an invisible man, and it placed me in a hole—or showed me the hole I was in if you will—and I reluctantly accepted the fact.” He reminds us that there is more to creating spaces that are liberation focused than just knowing what’s right – you should also do what’s right. In his 1952 book, Invisible Man – a story of a young, college-educated black man struggling to survive and succeed in a racially divided society that refuses to see him as a human being – Ellison opens up a conversation about civics, education, and financial independence. This story points to how being our authentic selves can help us bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis.

Not long ago, I received a call from a Black Lives Matter activist asking me to be her Congressional campaign manager. We knew each other from past work and shared a close relationship through a civil rights leader that lived in the district. After talking with him and coordinating living arrangements, I traveled to the state, to be her campaign manager. 

My first day on the ground was a bit unusual; our every step was being filmed for a movie scheduled to air on Netflix, which meant our every conversation was public. It took a few weeks to build electoral momentum, but we soon hit our stride and took the lead in our Congressional bid. Soon after, we began receiving public criticism for our campaign theme #BeThe1st — asking voters to make her the first woman represent CD-1. We were ridiculed on social media for her “body type,” and it affected her confidence. She began to question if she “looked like” a Congress member and wanted to change her look. I advised her, “Inquire within, the answer to every question in any situation lives within you. The intelligence inside you has all the answers, so consult your inner wisdom. Don’t question, analyze, or doubt the first answer it gives you. Listen and obey, and we won’t go wrong.”

We doubled down and ran as our authentic selves. Later, we experienced a devastating car accident that forced us to decide to suspend the campaign for health reasons. She wanted to continue our rigorous schedule, but the doctors recommend “bed rest,” and I decided to put her health above the campaign. We did not win that race, but she ultimately won that congressional seat in the next election.

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.

 After teaching in schools of color – schools with a significant student of color population, I’m reminded that “it takes good policies from good leaders to make a good change.” Leaders should not use “inappropriately” targeted messages and “hyper-partisan” mobilization campaigns to disrespect others. Using culturally insensitive terms or twisting offhand remarks about gender, race, or religion, sparks reactions, and unintended consequences. Underneath these micro-aggressions are subtle references to our values that feed a sense of cultural paranoia and or suspicion.

The use of shame and fear to motivate partisan supporters also triggers a downward spiral that adds to society’s dysfunction. We are in one of the toughest periods in American history. There is a campaign to suppress emotions through unhealthy activities while ignoring the looming financial crisis. What’s worse is that tactics like these produce anti-public education leaders. Our goal should be to acknowledge the current environment and work to fix the problems while addressing culturally relevant issues related to it. 

Back in the 2006 elections, extremists unleashed a harsh “cultural war” to get their base to vote. The political atmosphere is similar to that of today. However, there’s strong evidence that things may be different this time. 

  • We’ve had four years of new registrants, and many young voters plus voters of color (VOC) will vote for the first this year.
  • Political geography is surging in majority-minority cities like Norfolk; the population grew 3.4% to 242,803. 
  • This gives Norfolk more than 83,000 “key” Voters of Color. 
  • People of Color are over 26% of Virginia’s Citizen Voting Age Population — they were 24% of vote share in 2008 and about 23% in 2010.

It’s incredibly important for students of color to learn to address unique cultural concerns at an early age when the mind is most active. Studies show us that learning the appropriate way to heal, grow, and stand up for what they believe in during this cultural storm will stay with them. I like to compare helping students of color to address their unique concerns to self-advocacy and self-management – everyone needs to respect and set healthy boundaries.

As Ellison states in his prologue, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” Suppose a new coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, and Young Voters all demanded honest and trustworthy leaders. Our nation could quickly bounce back after this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. If we all are civically engaged, this turmoil we have today will give way to a full, coordinated community experience. Moreover, we should continue to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact education, leadership, and civic engagement. If we unify, the entire nation will discover a renewed sense of civility. Students of color will develop a healthy self-confidence, see themselves as capable learners, and become authentic leaders. In turn, they will be the first generation to live free from the fear of poverty, violence, and premature death.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.