2020Fund: How Michigan's grassroots organizations are laying the groundwork for that extra push for people to go out and vote
The grassroots organizations that actress Alyssa Milano's Movement Voters Project is associated with in Michigan all have their own niche causes but are united in fighting for democracy.
Political activists have started laying the groundwork for the 2020 presidential elections already, and while many would assume the election fever starts with the primaries, organizations like Michigan’s Mothering Justice, Michigan Liberation, and Detroit Action, have long since begun their work. All three organizations are partnered with actress Alyssa Milano’s 2020Fund and Movement Voters Project and aim to make an impact on the voter turnout in their state.
As Meredith Loomis Quinlan, the executive co-director of Michigan Liberation, explains to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that grassroots organizations ensure community members' voices are “heard by the candidates, that real issue positions are taken, and that voting is accessible: people know where their polling location is, the hours they can vote, or perhaps how to apply for an absentee ballot.”
While the work of such organizations might be overlooked in the hullaballoo of the elections, what MVP does is strengthen progressive powers at all levels of government by helping donors – big and small – support the best and most promising local community-based organizations in key states with a focus on youth and communities of color.
“We support hundreds of incredible organizations that both turn out unlikely voters and organize communities to grow their power and create transformation – from policy to the streets. We believe that supporting local ‘movement vote’ groups is both the most effective and most cost-effective strategy to transform our country,” MVP’s managing director Regina Clemente tells MEAWW.
The grassroots organizations that MVP and Milano are associated with in Michigan all have their own niche causes but are united in fighting for democracy. While Michigan Liberation focuses on transforming the criminal justice system through grassroots movement-building, Mothering Justice focuses on inspiring mothers of color to not just vote, but to use their influence within their community to get others to vote.
Says Quinlan, “A large part of that work is engaging in elections and making sure our members are heard in the lead up to the election, on Election Day, and in the months after an election.” In the end, it is the work of organizations like these that influence the final tally come election day.
“We know that women of color, specifically black women, vote out of values and that's really where everybody should be voting. We vote out of a sense of history and obligation, but also we very much understand the importance of electoral politics in our everyday lives… We are disproportionately affected by the policies and we see that in the infant mortality rate and poverty rate and lack of resources to support our families so it's really important to understand why we're voting,” says Danielle Atkinson, the founder-director of Mothering Justice.
She also explains to MEAWW how mothers of color are the most loyal voting bloc. “So when you are talking to this group of women, they're not only definitely going to turn out but they are positioned to be influencers in their community and we are wanting to really take advantage of that and say, ‘Thank you so much for all of the work that you do and now we want you to little lean into your role as an influencer.’”
Aktinson went on to elaborate that given a lack of investment and grassroots organizing in Michigan, it makes much more sense as a nonpartisan organization that is beneficial for the community to say “vote for us - vote for our community, vote for the people around you,” going into 2020.
“We know that that message resonates with especially mothers of color, because they have such a strong sense of community,” she states. “We are talking about the issues and we want to hold candidates accountable for their positions on the issues that are most important to us.”
“We have two things that we really believe are going to increase voter turnout in Michigan. One it's our Mama's Agenda - These are the issues that moms told us for most important to their own financial stability to their personal economy, so we're talking about leave policy issues, wages, infant and maternal mortality and affordable childcare,” she says.
The second is “our Mama-vist program. It is our relational organizing project capitalizing on the fact that mothers of color are influencers. We say that we know that your voice goes a long way in your community. ‘Can you please make a list of 50 people you think need an extra push to vote in 2020?’ She makes that list and we work together on how she's going to contact those individuals. Between the mother and Mothering Justice, we contact them about seven times between now and the election and so you multiply that by 300-400 Mamas and then you're starting to make a dent in the pie of people needing an extra push to vote.”