By Staff Writer Jasmine Williams
Responding to the need to engage Black voters in the electoral process in California, California Calls– an alliance of grassroots, community-based orgs across the state whose purpose is to “reclaim the California Dream of equality, opportunity and prosperity for all Californians,” birthed the African American CIvic Engagement Project (AACEP). AACEP is a cohort of base-building groups in 11 counties across to State, which participates in Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) campaigns during the varying election seasons.
For BOP, IVE has been a fruitful 3-year-long journey. Entering this new venture, we saw IVE as an opportunity to expand on the our existing organizing by using some of the tools that are utilized in electoral organizing to reach a larger scale of community members. We learned a lot about how we could use technology to reach specific groups, track responses and utilize the more efficient tracking systems to do immediate follow up with folks we spoke with at the doors.
This Spring during the primary election season, BOP hired 6 Black canvassers to participate in an 11 day campaign , where we hit the streets in Deep East Oakland Districts 6 and 7. Our canvassers knocked on doors and conducted street outreach to Black community members 3 days a week, 5 hours each day. Together we knocked on 1,520 doors , surveyed 275 people, and heard from 71 folks who wish to be contacted to learn more about the work BOP does in the community!
As usual, being in the streets was an indescribable, rewarding experience that goes beyond the numbers, and voter turnout. We heard about the issues that Black Oakland residents are facing, we had conversations about the dwindling Black population in a once-thriving Black city. Folks shared with us their concerns of the over policing of our communities and schools. In fact, eighty-percent of folks we surveyed felt that the Oakland Unified School District should invest in mentors and after-school programs instead of school police.
This year we look forward to a strong campaign this Fall where we will not only encourage our community to vote but will engage and educate each other on the local and statewide issues that are having, or could have huge impacts on our community. Things like school board elections are often overshadowed by national politics but have critical and long term impact on the lives of our familIes. Voter engagement is important but for BOP it is about engagement all year around. We have to hold systems accountable no matter who is in office, to answer to the interests of the people that are most impacted. Check out our video on the gallery tab to see the team in action!