ABOUT THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT
The Mississippi Delta Voter Education Project of Opportunity Youth United is the Delta Foundation’s civic engagement program in Mississippi for 2020. To achieve this, we have assembled an initial array of partners who have track records of voter engagement that extend back to the 1960s and up to the 2018 election cycle.
Our team offers extensive histories of deep collaboration across the state of Mississippi with a focus on low income communities of color. We have created durable programs that continue their impact on low income communities more than a decade later. Our 2020 program of voter engagement centers opportunity youth from all across the state of Mississippi.
According to an October 2014 Pew study entitled The Party of Nonvoters: Younger, More Racially Diverse, More Financially Strapped, fully 43% of those who were not likely to cast ballots were Hispanic, African American or other racial and ethnic minorities, roughly double the percentage among likely voters (22%). The study also found that a third (34%) of nonvoters are younger than 30 years of age. Nearly half of nonvoters (46%) have family incomes less than $30,000, compared with 19% of likely voters. Most nonvoters (54%) have not attended college.
opportunity youth and us senator thad cochran
A 2017 report found that when asked why they had not registered to vote, more than 60 percent of eligible voting-age adults responded that they had simply never been offered the chance to register. And more than one-third of those not registered intended to, but had not gotten around to it or found the process inconvenient. According to “Who Votes?
Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978–2014”, only 15.9% of 18-24 year-olds reporting voting in 2014. Of those with 9th to 12th grade education with no diploma, 23.2% reported they were registered and 8.7% reported that they voted. Of the general population of the state of Mississippi, 76% were registered and 42% voted. Of the total population of Mississippi’s 18-24 year olds, 39% reported that they voted.
the solution: opportunity youth leadership.
Opportunity youth field questions after their panel at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals
Opportunity youth from the state’s YouthBuild programs and elsewhere will be offered paid training and leadership opportunities with the Project. Working with project partners during the grant period, the Project will consult with an array of sources to conduct a scan of various analyses of voter participation in the recent local and presidential elections in the Mississippi Delta.
The goal will be to determine where project components could be deployed for the greatest impact on registration and voting in the presidential election in 2020 and (for later consideration) in local elections in 2021 for opportunity youth.
The Project will focus on engaging opportunity youth in three areas: voter registration, voter participation, and subsequent year-round policy engagement on specific policies of their choosing. An Intergenerational focus of the forthcoming Project will ensure that the impact extends beyond opportunity youth to include their families, neighbors, and those with shared policy interests.
organized youth united: young voices matter in the 2018 election cycle
In the 2018 election cycle, the Greenville Community Action Team led by Ashley Richardson engaged more than one hundred youth from The surrounding area.
As soon as funding has been committed, we will immediately put the support to use. During the initial months, will conduct urgent, intensive, and robust planning sessions with current partners and expand to recruit new collaborators throughout the Delta.
The focus will be 2020 voter engagement and will include policy advocacy as a means of building sustained interest. Within ninety to 100 days, we will generate specific preliminary geographic, demographic, and numeric goals for our voter engagement Project.
PLACES AND ORGANIZATIONS WHOSE OPPORTUNITY YOUTH PARTICIPATE
Mississippi Delta Council for Farm Workers Opportunities Inc.
Mississippi Action for Community Education
CLIMB Community Development Corporation
West Jackson Community Development Corporation
City of Natchez Housing Authority YouthBuild
- Yazoo City
Gateway CDC Yazoo County YouthBuild
Ashley Richardson and Volunteer
VOTER PARTICIPATION BY PEOPLE WITH CRIMINAL RECORDS
It is estimated that nearly one-third of Americans have criminal records, which offers the potential for broad support for restoration of voting rights. According to Mississippi state law, people with criminal records are permitted to vote under certain conditions. Yet, it is difficult for them to do so. Delta Foundation previously provided in-kind office space to a nonprofit organization called SPEAR. A primary focus of its work was supporting the reentry efforts of previously incarcerated individuals, including voting.
ADAPTING TO COVID-19
To begin to adapt to the physical distancing constraints of COVID-19, the Project has signed up to “partner” with “When We All Vote.”
Launched in 2018 by co-chairs Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, before the 2018 midterm elections, this nonpartisan effort organized 2,500 local voter registration events across the country, engaged 200 million Americans online about the significance of voting, and texted nearly four million voters the resources to register and get out to vote.
It is a digital platform into which individual participants can easily engage their own contacts utilizing their own smartphones. We are excited to adopt our Project to incorporate use of the platform by our youth.
key personnel & asset organizations.
Spencer Nash was a community organizer engaged in the voting rights struggles of Mississippi when he and others were among the 14 civil rights and community organizations that founded Delta Foundation in 1969.
Beginning then, Mr. Nash served on the board until assuming leadership of the foundation in 2010 as President. On the belief that the principal vehicle for the attack on poverty is the creation of for-profit enterprises that increase control and ownership of resources by the poor, Delta Foundation was chartered to benefit the economically disadvantaged residents of the Mississippi Delta many of whom were one generation from sharecropping and two generations from American slavery.
The proposed new host of the Greenville CAT, Delta Foundation, Inc. is a tax-exempt 501(C)(3) determined not to be a private foundation, as defined under Section 509 of the Internal Revenue Code. Delta Foundation owns and operates a non-commercial Community Radio Station, the motto of which is to “Empower Through Education and Information.” In recent years, Delta Foundation has partnered with the Western Line School District providing summer and after school enrichment activities funded by a $700,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Education.
Jeffrey Thomas was born in Mississippi in 1963 to parents who put their lives at risk in the struggle to vote. While serving on YouthBuild USA founder Dorothy Stoneman’s team, Jeffrey led national advocacy efforts that engaged programs in local policy advocacy with their state and federal representatives and the attorneys general of six states. He supported the advocacy efforts of state-wide coalitions in New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and California in their efforts with state attorneys general or local legislatures. In 2019, Jeffrey launched a $1.1 million federally funded YouthBuild program in the Mississippi Delta.
Jeffrey has a track record in deep community collaboration that centers people who live in economic poverty and that results in the creation of concepts that lead to durable projects that achieve impact in low-income communities of color.
Ashley Richardson organized the most young people in the OYU network for 2018 election day. She provides guidance and supervision for the young adult organizers of the Greenville CAT. As a volunteer during the last quarter of the 2018 election cycle, she partnered the Greenville CAT with municipal leaders and other voter engagement efforts like the Southern Women’s Rural Initiative and Black Voters Matter.
The result was more than 100 new Opportunity Youth United members, more than 75 new voters registered, and a GOTV effort driving voters to their polling places. This included a 91-year-old African American resident of a senior facility for whom it was her very first time ever voting. She involved high school students, offered registration at a booth at a 10,000-attendee blues festival, and participated in a civic engagement forum. She was previously a data manager and office administrator for MACE YouthBuild.
Ashley Richardson pictured above with Mississippi State Representative John Hines, Jr.
Dillon Bernard is a New York City-based digital communications strategist passionate about amplifying youth voices through social media and multimedia storytelling.
Dillon is currently the Communications Director at Future Coalition, where he leads social media strategy efforts across the national network of youth-led organizations and initiatives, including the US Climate Strike campaign.
Dillon is also the Youth Engagement Strategist at The Forum for Youth Investment’s SparkAction, a youth advocacy platform focused on engaging young people to take action on the stories and topics areas they care about.
Carol Blackmon is the Mississippi Coordinator for Black Voters Matter Fund, a nonprofit whose goal is to increase power in our communities through effective voting that allows a community to determine its own destiny.
She is a Senior Consultant and Human Rights Coordinator for Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice where she trains community leaders and their commissions on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 2017, Ms. Blackmon led a delegation of 30 rural black women to the United States Human Rights Network Conference to provide testimony related to Extreme poverty in the United States to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for his 2018 report. As Managing Consultant for the Deep South Delta Consortium, she successfully managed the submission of a non-commercial educational radio application to the Federal Communications Commission.
Partner organization Black Voters Matter Fund’s goal is to increase power in our communities. They believe that effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny. Their Mississippi 2020 work plan includes:
- Host massive statewide texting campaign across Mississippi
- Provide resources in the form of mini grants for mobilization of voters to the polls, to register for ID’s, etc.
- Access with accessing the VAN system to help with canvassing and door knocking
- Establish Positive working relationship with youth in community and those youth groups and associations on HBCU’s campuses
- Build new allies and relationships
- Target areas of large Black populations Be vigilant in rural areas and small communities
- Select mostly Black towns and counties with pockets of black voters
Photos of opportunity youth in this proposal were taken by Project Director Jeffrey Thomas from 2011-2012 when he prepared and accompanied young leaders from rural and urban areas in the U.S. and Indian Country for their nonpartisan advocacy activities in Washing, DC and around the United States.
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The mission of Delta Foundation is to provide community and economic development activities for poor, mostly minority families, businesses and communities. This mission is undertaken to eliminate poverty within the Delta region.