By Felipe Benitez and Betsy López-Wagner
Mobilizing voters of color during the most important election of our lifetime has been one of the greatest honors of our lifetimes.
This work, the real work, is done at the hyper-personal level, by weaving together friendships, relationships and forging new partnerships to ensure that our solidarity expands across the nation and hyper-locally, especially within our fellow communities of color.
Never has it been more true to say the words: when we vote, we love — cuando votamos, amamos.
Juntos – together – sí, se puede (yes, we can) and this is us doing what we can to get out the vote, armed with love and hope.
In the last 30 days, we have launched and supported our respective efforts to reach Latino and Black voters in areas where our gente have the most to lose and the least engagement by established parties.
Corazón Latino, a national non-profit organization generates social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship and with the message of conservation and hope has reached over 100,000 U.S. voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio combined.
Additionally, in Betsy’s adopted home state of Michigan, a multi-racial collective of Grand Rapids and Muskegon-area women leaders, climate and racial justice advocates and groups including I am Deeply Rooted, Inc., Revolutionaries Demanding Justice, and Justice for Black Lives worked to get out the vote in the Greater Grand Rapids region.
Most recently, the collective held a community-level event to spark joy and mobilize Latino/a/x and Black communities, in the days before today, Election Day. There, attendees left messages on portable murals reading “I Vote for” and “Yo Voto por,” to share the issues and motivations that will drive them to use their voices to vote in 2020.
The murals, a snapshot of political power, attendees included their reasons for voting, ranging from “because racism sucks” to wanting to protect “kids in cages” at the border.
There’s more at stake in this election – challenges of social injustice, higher rates of Covid-19 in frontline communities, growing demands for environmental justice and the need to stomp out voter intimidation and suppression.
Turning out Black and Brown voters in higher numbers than those who voted in 2016 is a labor of love and one that we don’t take lightly, knowing our efforts are but a blip in a giant radar screen of efforts by so many individuals and community organizations that often are not acknowledged for their efforts, but do a world of mighty good.
We know future elections will require new partnerships and recalibrated ways of thinking – established insider groups aren’t leveraging the power of our communities or recognizing their leadership and desire to be at the forefront of policy decisions about our air, water, and deep-rooted desire for climate justice and racial justice.
While the outcome of this election may not be known in the immediate future, we know this — we must vote with our families and our Madre Tierra – Mother Earth – in mind, climate justice is racial justice and today is a day to celebrate the power of intersectionality and the voices of our communities and their votes.
Latinas, Latinos, y Latinxs – hoy es el día. Hoy nos hacemos escuchar. Hoy hacemos historia.
Masks up, hearts out, let’s make our ancestors proud.
Felipe Benitez, is the Executive Director of Corazón Latino, a national non-profit organization that generates social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship.
Betsy López-Wagner is principal and chief strategist at López-Wagner Strategies. She works with mission-driven individuals, organizations and companies to strengthen collective impact while advancing social good.