/To boost millennial voter turnout, Delta leaders and activists team up

To boost millennial voter turnout, Delta leaders and activists team up

Three to four people stood at the T-shirt booth as they inspected the shirts. They had black empowerment slogans like “I Am My Ancestors Wildest Dreams”, and others that paid homage to civil rights leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1971 election poster for the state Senate seat. The crowd was dispersed between a quarter and six p.m. as less than twenty people waited patiently for the third and final “In The Mix With Millennials” discussion. After the five panelists, elected officials and community activists, arrived, more people started to arrive. The Oct. 2 event saw 63 people fill the seats. More than 30 people remained standing to discuss the importance of ensuring that all people, especially young people, are able to vote. Mario Giles, cofounder of the millennial panel series, stated that these panel discussions are designed to allow black people to have an honest and open conversation about the problems in their communities. This will help to identify solutions and move forward. Last week’s meeting stood out from the rest. Mike Espy, the Democratic leader in the race for the U.S. Senate seat that will replace Senator Thad Cochran, decided to meet with elected officials from the state and counties and community activists to discuss the importance of activism and voting. The focus was on the millennials who were born between 1981-96. A new survey from Millsaps College, Chism Strategies and others has found that only half of Mississippi’s voters are excited about the November midterm elections. Pew Research Center discovered that millennials will not cast the majority vote this November. Data also shows low turnout in midterm elections. The 2014 midterm election saw the youngest generation make up 53 percent of eligible voters, but they cast 21 million fewer votes than the older generations. How can you get younger voters to become more involved in politics? How can you get them to vote? How do you win their trust? “Older people won’t make it to the polls as they did five, ten years ago. Although I don’t want to harm anyone, you might not be around so you have to find a way for the millennials to increase their numbers,” Tami Sawyer (a county commissioner) said. “Gen Z is posting on Twitter that they won’t vote. How are you going to fix it?” Abe Hudson Jr. (D-Cleveland), stated that understanding the language of young people is key to getting them to vote. Hudson said that millennials value their opinions and if they don’t feel valued, it’s because you don’t listen. Sawyer, who identifies herself as a millennial, also echoed this sentiment, saying that it was imperative to dispel the myths that millennials are “inexperienced” and “not ready for leadership positions because of their age.” She cited Cripus Attucks, who was the first person of color to die in the Revolutionary War, as well as the Mississippians who led voting registration efforts during Freedom Summer 1964. Young people are a driving force behind activism and the number of such movements is growing. The 2017 Millennial Impact Report shows that education was the top concern of millennials before the 2016 election. Six months into President Donald Trump’s first term, their top concerns were civil rights violations and racial discrimination. The report says that this shift is due to increased media attention and activism on women’s rights, immigration, and gender issues. Voting numbers have fallen despite the activism. Panelists agree that it is important to encourage people to vote, but it is even more crucial to help them understand the political process and how to vote to give them the tools to make their lives easier. Edric Johnson, founder of Johnson and Johnson Enterprises and panelist, said that it was important to engage young people in order for them to be the driving force behind other young people and their elders. Jennifer-Adams Williams is the City of Grenada Municipal Judge Prosecutor. She added that it was important to teach them how to vote, rather than just go to the polls. According to the millennial report, 66% of millennials believe voting is important and will bring about change. Nevertheless, 24 percent of young people do not trust government officials or elected officials to do the right things. How can politicians motivate young voters if they don’t trust their voters? Espy believes that young voters can be energized if they are able to understand the positions of his campaign on issues that affect them. He said, “I’m going help them with their ideas. Help them gain wealth. Help them find a means to gain assets. And in education, help to reduce their student loan.” We go to them wherever they are, in their churches, factories, union halls, to talk about our ideas, economic uplifting and lifting up the bottom three percent of Mississippians. He said, “Just go to them wherever they are.” “I’m going do right by you and I’m going be the best senator ever had,” he said. Espy currently leads the race with 25 per cent over his Republican rivals, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde Smith, who was favored by 24 percent of respondents, and Chris McDaniel who was favored with 19 percent. Tobey Bartee was also supported by 4 per cent of respondents. Espy explained why he believes he is ahead at the end of the panel discussion. He mentioned Hyde-Smith, who was defending Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, against Christine Blasey–Ford, who she claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. McDaniel has also defended Kavanaugh’s case. He stated that black Mississippians were “begging (government) scraps” during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. McDaniel said that over 100 years ago, black Mississippians had been begging for federal scraps. “… I am telling you that a lot of people think Mississippi is crimson, but there are many purple people in Mississippi, people who are open-minded and have good intentions,” Espy told about 100 people. “… They respond to people who do the right things by millennials by veterans, workers, teachers, and those who have built this state. And that’s why they’re number one. Click here for more Mississippi Today coverage.