This Year We Built People Power

VOTE members and staff, including Executive Director Norris Henderson and Deputy Director Bruce Reilly, stand in front of one of VOTE’s voting rights billboard in New Orleans.

This year’s election season was as important as it was long. It felt both like a marathon and a sprint. November 3 brought significant victories both locally and nationwide, but for us in Louisiana, it didn’t end there. Many parishes also had a runoff election on December 5. Our VOTE family of organizers, canvassers, members, and partners kept energy high, and the results showed just how much our state was ready for change. Once we reached the finish line, our hard work paid off. Justice reform was on the ballot and justice reform WON.

​This election season, two of our biggest wins were the people power we built and the progressive candidates we elected. Even through the physical separation of social distancing, our VOTE team was showing up. On Oct. 24, as part of the national “Justice Votes” day, VOTE rallied across the state to celebrate the formerly incarcerated communities’ right to vote. In Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, we rallied, listened to speakers, and hit the polls as a family, showing what a true movement looks like. 

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How to Get In Where You Fit In: Lessons from the Inaugural Underground Railroad to Justice Summit

Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition leader Albert Woodfox (fifth from right), Voters Organized to Educate Policy Director Checo Yancy (sixth from right), and Light of Justice Project Director Calvin Duncan (seventh from right) were among the many advocates at the summit.

Last Friday VOTE gathered alongside other justice reform advocates the inaugural Underground Railroad to Justice Summit hosted by Southern University Law Center. The day’s sessions spanned from current policy strategies to attracting media attention, but the resounding message from the summit was unified: our movement is strong, and it must keep growing in order to keep winning.

More than 25 Louisiana justice organizations came to the summit, proving the unstoppable power of our movement. Together we reiterated the importance of holding every part of the system that has locked us up and locked us out accountable. 

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Envisioning the Year 2419

Today is the first day of the year 2020. Last year–2019–marked 400 years since the arrival of the first slave ship to what we now know as the Americas. With the new year comes new beginnings, but as the old African symbol of the Sankofa bird reminds us, we can’t see where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been.

Mass incarceration is a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade. Because the festering wounds from this collective trauma went unhealed, over the past 400 years we’ve seen the progression from slavery, to Jim Crow, to a public health crisis so severe that it affects one in every two American families. 

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