Fifty years later, Black organizations are still following the blueprint that over 700 student volunteers set out on in order to increase Black voter registration in post-segregated Mississippi. For 10 weeks, white students from the North would join activists to embed themselves within the community who later went on to open Freedom Schools for children where Black history and culture were taught — subjects that were shunned by regular public schools at the time.
Florida New Majority (FNM), a statewide voter partcipation organization that is working to empower minorities — women, Blacks, Latinos, new immigrants and young people — to participate in the political process toward an inclusive, fair and vital democracy.
As it states on the FNM website, “A cornerstone of our beliefs is defending and expanding the voting rights of all citizens, including those who are new to the country, raising children on their own, struggling to make a living, or returning from incarceration. We believe that a strong democracy for all makes a better Florida for everyone.”
Kalani Byrd, a freedom fellow for Florida New Majority is working hard to reach the community.
“We’ve written a petition on the fundamentals and we are going to churches around North Miami, Miami Gardens and non-profits and presenting them with what we are doing,” Byrd said. “Our mission is to get them to join the Right To Vote task force. We want to get as many people involved as possible.”
Byrd alongside with a host of other freedom fellows have been working closely with county commissioners too. In the petition that has garnered thousands of signatures over the weeks states that “Voting is a fundamental right”. It goes on to state that, “Our communities are kept from participating in decisions that affect us most through tactics like voter purges, changes registration rules, voter ID laws, or cutting early voting times and locations”.
“We want to show and tell them [commissioner] that the community is standing behind the Florida New Majority and that they want this so we can get them to help get the resolution passed,” Byrd said.
Byrd is currently a Peace and Conflict major at Colgate University.
“When I had to opportunity to apply and get accepted as a freedom fellow, we had to go through a lot of training,” she said. “We met civil right activists and got to hear about their past work — it got us to understand the task at hand and all of the knowledge that we needed to know to connect to our campaigns.”
Just as it was 50 years ago during what is know known as the “Freedom Summer” many people in the community have been willing to stand together for a great cause and sign the petition.
“A lot of people are aware of what is going on with politics and we have been getting a lot of community backing,” Byrd said. “We presume the resolutions to go well. We are trying to be proactive and not to pushy.”