Souls to the Polls is working through churches and central city neighborhoods to engage people in important work; registering voters, fighting voter suppression, helping to make the mail-in voting process effective and mobilizing people with information, actions, early vote and communication so the community is invested in a record high turnout in November.
Souls to the Polls has a special focus on youth, the future of the Black community. The youth vote is potentially a game changer for political decision-making, especially since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Prior to this murder, Souls to the Polls was embarking on a social media campaign to reach young people. In addition, Souls to the Polls established a project to hire youth organizers at the Milwaukee Area Technical College to support their work registering voters and recruiting people to serve as much-needed poll workers in Milwaukee. MATC organizers were working to contact students by phone to make contact with students at home and build energy for the election. Then the unthinkable happened.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. He was murdered by police during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. He was murdered on screen and that 8-minute video ignited a world wide movement against racism and police brutality. Protest marches and demonstrations began in Milwaukee on May 29 and continue. A key protest organizer and leader is Frank Nitty – a 39 year-old Milwaukee native and long time activist against police brutality. He has played a significant role mobilizing and publicizing people across age and race every day. These are the same people marching long miles through the neighborhoods of Milwaukee and area suburbs for the last 41 days straight.
Frank Nitty sees voting as a key part of fighting racism and police brutality, “When you unify the people, it’s different, now, we can vote. When I vote, that’s one thing. When he votes, that’s one thing. But now, the new Milwaukee group, all these people we have galvanized together. We can vote. And when we can vote, you can’t ignore that.” He is working to building a strong bloc of voters with enough power to make real changes.
Souls to the Polls has created a partnership with Frank Nitty to expand the focus of the thousands of people who have demonstrated since March 29. A Civil Rights leader once stated, ‘Marching is a necessary but not sufficient tool for making real change.” Frank believes we need to pay attention to elections. Elections put people into positions of power. The people voted into office then make the rules for everyone else. A critical aspect of securing justice is having the right people in positions of power – people who represent the community and are committed to making the structural changes needed for justice and equality.
Souls to the Polls has now built a partnership with Frank Nitty and the Black Lives Matter organization to expand this election organizing to include thousands of young people activated by George Floyd’s death.
Frank’s work will focus on two areas – mobilizing young people and other participants to be a part of the election process and to help lead the Light Up Milwaukee campaign.
Many young people of color have regarded politics and elections as largely irrelevant rituals that do little to improve their lives or their families.’ The Black Lives Matter movement has brought young people out into the political world and serves as a gateway to Black Votes Matter. As Rev. Lewis – Souls to the Polls Director – put it, “If your vote doesn’t matter, why are these politicians working so hard to keep you from voting?”
The COVID pandemic has also isolated people into their own personal worlds with little sense of connection to society as a whole. The Black Lives Matter movement has re-connected young people to the wider world. Souls to the Polls is working to link the passion of Black Lives Matter to the more everyday campaign to mobilize voters to take their shot.