Originally reported by https://www.insightnews.com/

Photo credits – Jiccarra Hollman

Transforming Justice Coalition started national tour with North Minneapolis rally

Transforming Justice Coalition, led by Barbara Arnwine, Esq. and Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, and in partnership with the New Justice Project, launched its national Black voter engagement effort in North Minneapolis on October 8.  The tour’s goal is to encourage Black communities across the nation to register to vote and to go to the polls in droves on, or before, November 8. It was no regular stop-and-talk at the community about voting integrity. Their mission was to make it a celebration and that they did.

There was a live DJ, free food, community, and a community press conference with state officials to discuss the many ways voting brings change, the importance of exercising that right, and the challenge of staying strong when barriers are placed to restrict Black voters turn out like excessively long lines or ridiculous new clauses.

The event began at Sanctuary Church in North Minneapolis and included a book giveaway and facilitated readings from various community members. Next, the leaders ventured on a votercade traveling through downtown Minneapolis along Portland Ave to George Floyd Square.

“The Transformative Justice Coalition(TJC) is in the streets, where the action is happening, working and pushing to make sure people have the right to vote,” said Daryl Jones, co-leader and chair of the board. The tour is nonpartisan with no political affiliation to any party. They don’t tell people how to vote but they believe that if they can inform them and get them out to the polls that they will vote in the way that is in the best interest of the Black community.

The tour’s focus is not just on Black communities. The focus is on the communities with the lowest performing voter rates in the election which happen to be predominantly Black and Brown communities. The concept is to get to the low-performing communities and to get them to the polls to vote.

Barbara Arnwine shared statistics based on polling within the African American communities. Results of a survey showed that less than 49% of African Americans knew that there is an election on November 8. “The awareness that we have an election that you can vote in is not as popularly known as you may think. That’s why we are out here. To make sure that if people do not vote it is a matter of choice but not from being ignored, neglected, oppressed or not engaged from not knowing that they have a right to vote,” said Arnwine.”

The tour aims to engage, activate, motivate and inspire Black voters to be involved in the November 8 midterm election. According to Arnwine, black voters are the reason for today’s political landscape.

The consensus often is that young people will not turn out to vote. Reportedly in predominantly Black communities, voters have become frustrated or suppressed by long lines, new voting clauses, or beliefs that felons do not have the right to vote. It is one target to change this belief and reeducate the community members of their power, including formerly connected felons.

“The worst day for a formerly incarcerated felon is election day because they believe that they are being reminded that they are not full citizens. On that day, they believe that they don’t have the right to vote,” said Jones. One of the issues the tour addresses is to let those that have been formerly convicted of felonies know when their rights have been restored.

“We are out here to say even if you have $.10 to your name you have the same right to vote as Biden and millionaires. It is your power to vote and we want the community to use that power,” said Arnwine, Esq.

Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw, Executive Director of African American Policy Forum (AAPF), joined Arnwine, on the tour to show the connection between banning our votes and banning our thoughts.

“The books are banned for some of the same reasons that our votes are being banned. The folks with ideas about the right to equity, the right to a different type of world, their ideas are reinforced by books and reading so they ban access to information,” said Crenshaw.

The African American Policy Forum seeks to promote racial justice and gender justice. “We are all about showing the intersections between racism and white supremacy and patriarchy and sexism,” said Crenshaw. “It came to be in the aftermath of the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill confirmation hearings in which it was clear that a lot of members of the African American community were unaware of the history which shape back women’s lives. The fact that black women were the first plaintiffs to argue that sexual harassment was actually gender discrimination.”

“The dynamics of repressing the right to vote, learn, read or protest has always been a part of retrenchment whenever we’ve made advances,” said Crenshaw.

“The tour is for the people, the moment, and the need,” said Arnwine.

“It’s not good enough to tell people to vote, people need to understand how they are affected and so often that part gets ignored and the communities, especially black communities are blamed for not showing up to the polls. Barbara and Kimberle’s tour is about correcting this approach. Telling people to vote, yes, but showing people what the stakes are, how they are affected, and how they can have power in the conversation beyond just a single vote,” said Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 5 representative.

The point is to make concrete the consequences of not voting. “We thought of joining this campaign to show that many council members that were voted in then turned around and made sure people didn’t have access to ideas, history, or books within the schools in certain school districts of certain states. Wherever Barbara goes to activate people to vote, we go to make sure people know the reasons why they should, said Crenshaw. We chose Minneapolis because of George Floyd. We chose the states where the black voters are that can make a difference. “As we looked at the map of the black communities it turns out that those are the same states that banned these books,” both leaders agreed.