This past weekend, Black Women Stirring the Waters hosted students of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center for a community discussion on voting in the November elections at Joyce Gordon Gallery on 14th street in downtown Oakland.
A full gallery of all ages shared deep and thoughtful questions with Freedom Center young people who spent 35 days of their summer in Bakersfield, Arvin and Lamont in the Central Valley of California where only 5 percent of the electorate votes.
The majority of the voters in the Central Valley are workers, principally dealing with agriculture and farm labor.
The young people shared stories of going door-to-door, encountering resistance to voting, having conversations with other young people, and the strength and encouragement they got from elders like Dolores Huerta and Dr. Roy Wilson.
They shared their convictions that democracy cannot be healthy if all who can vote do not do it, calling voting the entry-level class of democracy.
David Gaines, a junior at Alameda Science and Technology Institute and a Freedom Center organizer with several Black churches in Oakland, reminded audience members that even if residents are not able to vote, there is still work that can be done.
“I’m 16 years old and I can’t vote. But I have a mother who can vote and a 19-yearold brother who can vote, aunts and uncles, neighbors and folks at my church who can vote,” said Gaines.
“This is not only about if we can vote or not. Ask yourself, what are you doing to get everyone you know who can vote to vote?”
The Freedom Center emphasizes the need for cross generational, diverse community efforts that bring the strengths of all community members into a shared, collective endeavor. In this case, it’s getting out the vote. The event on Sunday was a powerful example of that.
“I am deeply inspired by the students and staff from the Martin Luther King Freedom Center,” said Mina Wilson, a second generation Black Women Stirring the Waters member and current Vision Committee member.
“The students realize that there is wisdom in cross-cultural and cross-generational engagement and that making humanity our focus is key as we move to make positive, sustainable change in our families, communities, nation and the world,” Wilson said.
For more information on the Freedom Center, please call 510-434-3988.