Town hall explores voting of black women

On Monday, Oct. 29 Higher Heights hosted a town hall on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The topic of discussion was voter suppression.

Town hall explores voting of black women
November 01
02:00 2018

On Monday, Oct. 29 Higher Heights, a national organization designed to build the political power and leadership of black women, held a town hall on voter suppression on the campus of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).

Founded by Glynda C. Carr and Kimberly Peeler-Allen, Higher Heights was founded in 2014 with a mission to organized and mobilize the power of Black women voters through the #BlackWomenVote campaign.

During the town hall held at the Anderson Center, Peeler-Allen said black women have been the deciding factor in every election since 1998 and the goal of the town hall was to bring black women together to discuss the factors and issues that bring them out to the polls.

Peeler-Allen said the town hall held at WSSU was the third event this election season. She said it’s important to have this conversation with women of color because it its important that our communities thrive.

“We’re traveling across the country to have conversations for black women with black women about the issues that are critically important to us and motivate us to the polls because we know it’s beyond just one particular candidate; it is about the movement and making sure our communities thrive and not just survive,” Peeler-Allen said.

The town hall featured panelists from various backgrounds and experiences and was moderated by Natalie Murdock, an organizer for #BlackGirlsVote and a North Carolina native. The panelists were: Carolyn Smith, a strategic campaign director for Working America; Kristen Marion, a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill who works with the Alliance of Black Elected Officials; Reyna Walters-Morgan, a consultant with Democracy NC; and Dr. Michele Lewis, associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychological Science at WSSU.

After introducing the panelists, Murdock jumped right in with questions. To jumpstart the conversation, she asked what are some of the challenges black women voters face here in North Carolina? 

Smith said cutting back on the number of early voting days and the number of early voting sites was one of the ways lawmakers are trying to suppress the black vote. She said, “That was a way to make sure that people are not coming out to vote.

“The places they actually cut back in were where voters tend to look like us,” said Smith. So it appears they were “making sure they suppress our vote and making sure people are not coming out to vote.”

Walters-Morgan took a moment to discuss how Democracy NC helps to stop voter suppression leading up to election and on Election Day. She mentioned that they will have poll workers at voting sites in bright yellow T-shirts to help voters if they have any questions. She also discussed the election protection hotline where citizens can report any issues or problems that may arise when casting their ballots.

Marion discussed the situation at N.C. A&T where the campus is literally split between two different districts which means students vote at two different locations. Marion, who is a recent college graduate said that can be confusing for a student who has other things to worry about.

“If you go and talk to students, they don’t understand that they can’t vote where they voted last year because they moved to a different dorm,” said Marion. “They’re trying to focus on school, job applications, tuition and stuff like that, so that’s one way they’re making it difficult for students.”

Dr. Lewis talked about the psychological side of voter suppression. She said voters must remember that every election, it’s someone’s first time voting and oftentimes there are people who are disenfranchised and are intimidated by the process when they hear terms like “voter fraud.”

“That’s a form of tactical deception because you play around with that language, and if it’s their first time, things can be quite intimidating and that tends to lead to avoidance,” Lewis said.

Following the panel discussion on voter suppression, a different set of panelists discussed criminal justice reform.

For more information on Higher Height or #BlackWomenVote, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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