On Saturday, June 9th, Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, spoke in Montgomery County about minority voter empowerment and building multi-racial electoral coalitions. Black Voters Matter was instrumental in turning out the African American vote for Doug Jones in the December special election in Alabama.
Cliff’s key points:
- Black voters must matter all year, not just at election time. Organizations should work with communities on issues year-round, not just before elections expecting votes.
- Black voters matter everywhere. In Alabama, there had been a history of overlooking pockets of black voters in the rural black belt. The increased turnout in those areas played a critical role in Jones’ victory.
- Messaging must be authentic and honest. Candidates should not be made to look more progressive than they are. Address the specific interests of minority voters and face up to difficult issues.
- Listening to black voters is not enough. Campaigns must invest in black people, especially women, and organizations. Offer tools and resources and allow partner groups to use as they see fit.
- Work closely with existing grass roots infrastructure and local organizations of all types.
- Don't replace the difficult conversations needed in the white community with outreach to minority communities.
- Relationships matter. Go to meetings, become familiar with people and their needs, listen without talking.
- Recognize that your objectives and your partner organization’s objectives may differ on specific issues, e.g., gentrification, zoning, schools. Be honest about them and find common ground elsewhere.
- Efforts to establish coalitions with minority communities should take into account the history and effects of past repression and discrimination. Deal with each community based on its legacy of activism or disillusionment.
Here’s are videos of Cliff's presentation (thanks to Devora Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc):
Many thanks to Cliff Albright, to all who attended this talk, and to our friends at Unleash Your Activist, Bend the Arc, and Indivisible Montgomery who organized it. We intend to apply Cliff’s insights in building coalitions and increasing voter turnout as we work toward victory in November and in the future.