Three black groups partner in voter effort

Three black groups partner in voter effort
December 24
00:00 2015
NAACP President Rev. William Barber

By Cash Michaels

For the Chronicle

The NC NAACP, NNPA and African-American newspapers associated with the N.C. Black Publishers Association (NCBPA) have now joined forces for the most massive nonpartisan voter registration, education, mobilization and ballot protection movement in North Carolina’s history for the 2016 elections.

Representatives of the NC NAACP met with NCBPA publishers Dec. 11 in Durham, along with black publishers from two South Carolina publications, and Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. All participants agreed that the upcoming 2016 presidential, congressional, legislative and gubernatorial elections are too critical to the African-American community across the Carolinas and the nation for the Black Press not to be involved in working with the NC NAACP and the South Carolina NAACP in this major effort.

“The Carolinas are one of the largest regions for reaching African-Americans,” Dr. Chavis, who called the Black Press “… the trusted print voice” in the black community, told those gathered. “North Carolina and South Carolina are key for a massive voter outcome. A partnership between the Black Press and the NAACP is critical.”

Speaking via speakerphone from Raleigh, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, said that the civil rights organization has always had an historic relationship with the Black Press. He called black newspapers “important” in helping to get the word out about the It’s Our Time, It’s Our Vote mass voter engagement campaign first announced Dec. 1, adding that he was “… excited about where we’re headed.”

Rev. Barber reminded all about the upcoming Tenth Annual Mass Moral March/Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 in downtown Raleigh. Widespread promotion of the event – which drew over 15,000 participants from across the state and nation last year – has already begun, said Rev. Curtis Gatewood, The NC NAACP’s HK on J coalition coordinator.

“Our partnership is needed to help push HK on J, which will be a big part of our massive Get Out the Vote effort,” said Gatewood, who confirmed that voter registration will be taking place at the event. John Stean II, NC NAACP communications and media coordinator, added that he will be working directly with getting timely HK on J information out to black newspapers.

This is not the first time North Carolina’s Black Press and the NC NAACP have worked together in a mass voter campaign. In 2008, with the blessing of then national NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, both groups partnered for the Million Voter March, which helped to register a record number of black voters, ultimately winning the state for the historic election of President Barack Obama.

Same-day registration and a longer one-stop/early voting period without photo ID was in force at that time, but in 2013, a Republican-led N.C. legislature changed all of that to make it harder for blacks and young people to cast their ballot.

The NC NAACP and its legal partners have fought to strike down new voter restrictions in federal court, but a federal judge still hasn’t rendered his decision on the first part of the case heard last July. A new trial focusing on stopping voter photo identification is tentatively scheduled for January, but that could be delayed. So even though an injunction against implementing photo ID has been requested, Rev. Barber said it’s not clear what voting rules will be in force for the Mar. 15, 2016 N.C. primary.

Dr. Chavis, Rev. Gatewood, and all in attendance agreed the Black Press/NC NAACP partnership is needed not only to promote “real leaders” and positive movements in the African-American community, but also provide balance to the historically negative reporting by the mainstream media, which has stoked violence and confusion.

The South Carolina primary is Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, and even though African-Americans comprise over 50 percent of South Carolina Democrats, it is still considered urgent to maximize voter registration, education and mobilization efforts there, NCBPA Pres. Mary Alice Thatch said in a statement.

Pres. Thatch noted, “It is essential that the message of the Black Press to black people be delivered to every African-American in the Carolinas and the nation. Why? Because the Black Press is the only voice we have guaranteed by the First Amendment [to] the Constitution and the only media entity in present time that has the independence to champion our causes.”

“A campaign whose goal is the delivery of a “black newspaper to every coffee table in an African-American residence in the Carolinas is essential,” maintained Pres. Thatch, who added the Black Press led the historic campaign several years ago which resulted in pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten, and broke the national story of Lennon Lacy, the black Bladenboro teen found hanged from a swing set in August 2014.

And that’s why the Black Press continues to need the unfettered support of the community it serves, advertisers who support the African-American community, and fairness in how major advertising and political dollars are spent in the black community, Pres. Thatch said.


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