Youth activists advocate for voting rights now [SwanoDown Look Back, 2021]

By Imani Wj Wright

Original Publish, 2021

On Nov. 3, several advocacy groups, and protestors gathered outside The White House, demanding President Biden to make voting rights a top priority by passing voters rights legislation, and in turn, ending the current filibuster. This action followed events in October that resulted in dozens of activists arrested. The demonstration was constructed by: The League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Declaration for American Democracy, together with Black Voters Matter, Democracy Initiative, Drum Majors for Change and the Future Coalition. Notable names in attendance included Martin Luther King III, Andrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King and Ben Jealous. 

The crowd’s demographic was diverse in age and race, but youth activists were in the forefront. Many speakers were in their early to late 20s and Yolanda Renee King was the youngest to speak at age 13. 

A large red sign that read: “Voting Rights Now!” could be seen held high by a group of protestors for the entirety of the event directly behind whoever was on the microphone. Other signs that could be seen at the protest read: “Black Voters Matter,” and “Hate Won’t Make America Great!”

Following several speeches that focused on Black, Women, and LGBTQIA voters, police began to give warnings for protestors to move from the location. Soon after, Ben Jealous announced that everyone who was willing to risk arrest was to lineup on the gate directly in front of The White House lawn. More than 60 protesters willingly risked arrest. Yolanda Renee King was amongst those 60. Jealous made it a priority to pass the microphone to every person lined up in order for their names and messages to be heard. Protestors came from multiple states including Florida, New York and Georgia. 

The AFRO caught up with a few young activists in attendance who were not in the immediate midst of risking arrest– Markus Batchelor, 28, former Ward 8 representative and vice president on the D.C. State Board of Education, and National Field Director of Black Voters Matter Dean Charles Anthony II, 28.

“This is an escalation of what we’ve been demanding that President Biden do all summer and since day one of his Administration, which is to deliver for the American people. We elected him to restore, not just faith in our roads and bridges and our physical infrastructure, but the infrastructure of our democracy,” Batchelor said. 

“If we have blatant attacks on the right to vote both by the Supreme Court, and Republicans around the country, it’s time for the federal government to step in. So, we’re here demanding again that he step in more forcefully to demand that senate Democrats, the Democratic majority, deliver comprehensive voting right legislation for the American people,”Batchelor added. 

Dean Charles Anthony II, gave some insight on why young people are pivotal in the pursuit of change. 

“When it comes to having young people spearheading an event, one thing that we learned just from the Civil Rights movement in general– the work cannot be accomplished without young people. Even when you look at the boycotts in the restaurants, there’s a reason there were young people in those rooms. Older folks still had to go to work and pay their rent,” Anthony said.  

“There’s always a place for young people in the movement as both leaders and followers… That’s why it’s so important that we keep young people in the movement,” the National Field Director of Black Voters Matter said.

You can stay up to date with PFAW’s actions for Voting Rights by visiting: 

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