A statewide voting campaign tour targeting Black voters stopped in Gainesville on Wednesday to discuss the importance of being prepared for the 2024 election season.

Billed as The Power of the Ballot Lunch and Learn luncheon, the discussion was hosted by the Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation in a conference room at 726 NW Eighth Ave. It was part of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Power of the Ballot HBCU Bus Tour and Community Knocks campaign.

The tour is a national and multi-state organizing, non-partisan, voter engagement campaign focused on increasing Black voter turnout and providing voting rights education in preparation for the 2024 election season. 

Members of the Power of the Ballot campaign are a diverse group of over 50 national and state-based organizations and NCBCP and Black Women Roundtable, which is an empowerment program associated with NCBCP. 

“We wanted to talk about the importance of being deliberate to help our youth,” said Chanae Jackson, a local activist and field director for Florida For All, a statewide coalition fighting for an authentic democracy, accountable justice system and fair and inclusive economy that affords all people the freedom to live their own version of the American Dream.

“The people you are the closest to are the people you have the most impact on,” Jackson said.

Diverse group of speakers

The speakers during the event were:

  • Salandra Benton, executive director and convener of FCBCP, who talked about her experience on the statewide tour encouraging people to vote. 
  • Tyra “Ty Loudd” Edwards, a local resident who talked about how to meet the youth where they are to encourage them to vote.
  • Jeniffer Revell, a local doula, who talked about the importance of reaching out to the Black immigrant population during election season and the value of self-advocacy through pregnancy.
  • Keyon Young, a local young adult, who talked about how to engage with the youth to increase voter turnout.

‘We are under attack’

“It’s important to be with our communities and engage with them to make sure their voices are heard,” Benton said. “We are under attack. The state of Florida is under attack when it comes to Black history and women’s rights. The powers that be are abusing their power and we want to show them that we have power too. We are planting seeds all over because we cannot wait until 2024.”

Convincing younger voters they are an important part of the process is key to getting them to the polls, Edwards said.

“It’s important to organize with them because they feel left out,” Edwards said. “Usually when we’re talking to them, they feel we’re talking at them. We have to meet them where they are. You’d be surprised how many are interested in getting involved. I let them know that every aspect of their life comes from a vote.”

Hatian American shares her experiences

Revell, a Haitian American woman, talked about her experiences growing up in Miami and living in Gainesville.

“We moved into the community where people looked like us but don’t talk like us,” Revell said. “We had to learn to hold on to our culture and learn about Black culture and white culture. We were the interpreters for our parents.”

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Revell also talked about the power of the African diaspora working toward maintaining its communal roots to sustain the population and shared her knowledge about prenatal nutrition and postpartum education.

Older adults must set good example

Young, 24, is Jackson’s eldest son. He talked about how he encourages his peers to have a better mindset about life.

Chanae Jackson, standing in center, speaks during The Power of the Ballot Lunch and Learn luncheon Wednesday in NW Gainesville.
(Credit: Photo by Voleer Thomas, Correspondent)

“Surround yourself with people that will put you in the right place of mindframe,” Young said.

Older adults must work harder when it comes to setting a better example for the youth, Young said.

“People tell us, ‘Do as I say and not as I do,’ ” Young said. “You can say the right thing all of the time but if we see the wrong things being done all of the time — it’s hard.”

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener for the Black Women's Roundtable, delivers the keynote speech during the The Power of the Ballot Lunch and Learn luncheon on Wednesday in northwest Gainesville.
(Credit: Photo by Voleer Thomas, Correspondent)

Keynote speaker

The keynote speaker was Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of NCBCP and convener for BWR.

“We created this tour to connect with communities,” Campbell said. “I heard talks about counting Florida out of the elections and you can’t keep Florida out. Events like this are important for us to talk to one another.”

She said hers and other organizers began the voting campaign early to let people know the 2024 election season is right around the corner.

“We are stronger together,” Campbell said. “The idea is for us to start early. This is the time for us to listen and work together.”

Next tour stops

The next stops on the tour will be Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Opa Locka (invitation only) and Miami Gardens and Saturday in Miami Gardens.