A new opportunity and need to engage African American voters has emerged in the wake of Black Lives Matter and a growing national movement to raise public awareness and accountability around police brutality, mass incarceration and the problem of school-to-prison pipeline practices in public schools.
California is home to the 5th largest black population in the country. African-Americans play a defining role in electing progressive candidates and passing progressive laws. As “likely voters” in the Black community age, it is critical to engage and motivate younger generations to step into leadership and civic engagement at higher rates.
Additionally, the political power of African Americans is dispersing as more families are displaced from historic African American neighborhoods in urban centers, and move to suburbs and rural counties. Building movement infrastructure beyond the cities is key to ensuring the pressing needs of black communities are addressed, and their political voice is sustained.
On April 20th, California Calls and key funding partners officially launched the African American Civic Engagement Project to respond to these issues with an approach grounded in grassroots organizing linked to electoral participation.
This project brings together 12 dynamic grassroots organizations to expand civic engagement, and support a new wave of movement building in black communities across California. The African-American project partners are on the frontlines of developing young black leaders, expanding reproductive services for black women, fighting for college access, providing re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and organizing the homeless.
Two weeks ago, 8 of the groups launched their first integrated voter engagement program. Nearly 140 Grassroots leaders will contact over 15,000 black voters in their local communities to motivate them to vote in the California Primary on June 7.
For the next two years, California Calls will assist these grassroots organizations to build their capacity and organizing muscle. The training program will draw on over six years of experience, experimentation, and proven results that have helped California Calls reach out and talk to over 1 million new and occasional voters since 2009, and increase turnout of these voters by over 15%.