Building Black Power and Infrastructure

Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, African American voters have been a powerful and consistent electoral force. For California, home to the fifth largest black population in the nation, this has translated as a powerful progressive political base central to passing policies that address community needs and electing policy makers who will advocate for people over corporations.

And yet, there are tremendous challenges that persist in black communities. While African Americans represent only 6% of the state population, they are over-represented in prisons and jails where they represent nearly a third of of inmates. African Americans also disproportionately suffer the pervasive effects of discrimination and the growing economic inequality with a 29% poverty rate in California. Out of these challenges and others (like state sanctioned violence by police), new movements have emerged, breathing new life into multi-racial alliances African Americans have led for decades.


Unfortunately, consistent African American voters are aging, and their children and grandchildren are voting at significantly lower rates. A new opportunity and need to engage African American voters has emerged.

For years, California Calls has engaged and motivated African American voters to the polls across the state – relying on trusted community organizations and grassroots leaders as messengers.


To expand this voter engagement into new communities, build capacity for new grassroots groups and support emerging movement building in black communities, California Calls is launching the African American Civic Engagement Project.

The African American Civic Engagement Project is a two-year capacity building program that will utilize California Calls’ extensive experience. Based on a landscape scan of over 80 black organizations in the state and dozens of interviews, California Calls will identify a cohort of 10 organizations with the interest and capacity to add integrated voter engagement as an ongoing dimension of their power building strategy. The program will include:

  • Investment in civic engagement infrastructure and on-going support and training to deepen their power and capacity
  • Multiple rounds of civic engagement programs to engage, build relationships with, and increase turnout of black voters
  • Collective planning, problem-solving and strategizing
  • Organizational Development training and coaching

The African American Civic Engagement Project is just one way California Calls is focusing on mobilizing the emerging electorate to the polls in 2016 and beyond. It is a key component of the 1 Million Voters Project to help create a new progressive pole and moving our state toward a brighter future for everyone.

Mobilizing 1 Million Strong in 2016 and Beyond

“Will voters turnout in November 2016?”

That is the question on our minds after a record low voter turnout in 2014 and recent polls predicting that the country’s largest voting blocs will stay home on Election Day.

California Calls’ answer to the question is a resounding “yes” – and we have a plan to make it happen in 2016 and beyond.

We are leading an effort to engage and turnout 1 million voters by 2018. At the end of last year, California Calls, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environment Network (APEN), Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV), and PICO California launched the Million Voters Project.

Joining forces with 40 local affiliates and labor allies, the Million Voters Project will advance the transformation of the California electorate so that it reflects the population of the state. Together, participants will launch a series of voter engagement programs to engage, build a relationship with, and turn out 1 million new and infrequent voters in November 2018.

The first step will be to mobilize over 700,000 voters in 2016. This first turnout goal will provide over 10% of the votes which could be a decisive margin in many ballot measures that will provide stepping stones to bigger reforms in 2018.

EOY_TO_chartCommunities represented by the new California Majority face similar struggles, but are often pitted against each other for a shrinking cut of the pie. But when they vote together, these communities can win the types of policies that prioritize their mutual needs –like a higher minimum wage, investment in schools that need funding most, and passing reforms to Prop 13 that secure billions of dollars for their neighborhoods.

California Calls has worked year round since 2009 to build trusted relationships with voters across the state. By connecting voters to the issues that they care about, California Calls has been able to increase voter turnout in these communities by 8-15%.

Mobilizing 1 million new and occasional voters to the polls in 2018 is a major step toward a California electorate that has the ability to take bold policy moves. Click here to find out more about the path for California in 2016 and beyond.

From Stepping Stones to Seismic Shift

At the height of California’s fiscal crisis, California Calls set out a bold strategy: we proposed to mobilize half a million new and infrequent voters to build a new political pole in the electoral landscape.

We believed then, as we do today, that our communities hold the power to shift our state onto a new path that ensures equality, justice and opportunity for all.

Now, with 30 organizations in 12 counties across the state and 600,000 supportive voters committed to voting in every election, California Calls has become a driving force for change.

The time has come to move beyond small, incremental change and fight for what is possible, and what we know we can win.


Help California Calls celebrate the foundation we’ve laid so far and get ready for the hard work ahead. Share our new infographic on Facebook or Twitter to show  how together we are changing the California Electorate and securing a better future for everyone.