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in Jacksonville, FL on April 26th-28th
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Over two hundred fifty community leaders gathered in Lowndes County, Alabama on September 22, 2012, and we are regenerating the Southern Freedom Movement.
While the Democratic and Republican parties market to narrow constituencies in 3-4 states, Southern delegations came together from Louisiana to Appalachia. Large delegations of young people from 12 states in the South, migrants living in Alabama and beyond, Black organizers and leaders from ten states, and LGBTQ organizers from five states came together to declare: We All Count – We Will Not be Erased.
More than 30 million people will be discouraged or prevented from voting in this election. “This is the highest number since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. We know that many of those people are Black, LGBT people, people displaced by foreclosure or disaster, and young people – these communities are coming together, and we are saying loud and clear that our voices and issues matter, despite restrictions like Voter ID laws and redistricting,” says Emery Wright, Co-Director of Project South in Atlanta.
The 2008 election, which many considered a decisive victory, was decided by 9.5 million votes. The 2004 election was decided by 3 million votes. If even a fraction of the 30 million voters who are being discouraged or prevented from voting were able to vote this year, the misleading blue-red electoral map would look very different. In 2012, we see the re-emergence of a Southern right-wing strategy with state-by-state policies that criminalize immigrants, reduce reproductive rights, and lock in racist legislation that affects all people.
“Southern youth stand in solidarity with the Southern Freedom Movement, and we believe that the National Student Bill of Rights (NSBR) is essential to the We All Count Campaign and to the rest of the nation.” – Niqua Douglas & Saeda Washington, NSBR organizers
The We All Count campaign built over 25 action sites across the South with 300 organizers trained to register under-represented voters, provide political education, and activate people blocked and discouraged from voting. Our organizations are not wealthy partisan groups, superPAC’s, or big non-profits. We are grassroots community organizations that together represent over 25,000 Southern people. Even progressive forces often ignore the South as a lost cause during national elections—much of our work does not even show up on the radar. We call on the country to see the South as a key site in the struggle for democracy. Leaving the South behind is not an option. We are building movement in the South that is connected to all movements for liberation and freedom.
Why did we camp on the grounds?
In 1965, Tent City in Lowndes County marked the height of the voting rights movement. Black residents built it after being forced out of their homes for registering to vote. SNCC elders informed the crowd at the Southern Movement Assembly that people fought back, launched a successful independent political party, and ran candidates for local positions. Tent City was not a tactical retreat; it represented resilience, community governance, resistance, and offensive strikes. At a time when the right wing hate machine divides our communities, we camped in solidarity with our history. By camping there overnight, we experienced the vitality of meeting in our own space, resourcing our own travel, and gathering on historic grounds to regenerate the power of Southern Freedom Movement.
What happens next?
The assembly regenerated the Southern Freedom Movement through powerful community governance. Using the Peoples Movement Assembly process, delegations met and created five regional actions. We committed to take leadership and participate in the Peoples First Hundred Days beginning the day after the national elections, from November 7 through February 15, 2013.
Our shared plan will increase communication between and among our forces, advance our local struggles as part of this larger movement, and coordinate five major actions throughout the Southeast: N7 (November 7th Street Teams and actions), Community Assemblies (till the end of the year), MLK Day actions in January, a large February 14th convergence, and National Student Bill of Rights youth-led ballot actions.
The Peoples First 100 Days furthers our local struggles and connects us all to a larger Southern Freedom Movement, under the banner of Fannie Lou Hamer’s call: Nobody’s Free till Everybody’s Free.