As part of its mission to support and advocate for its members and the music community at large, BAM is building a coalition to make sure every American citizen can safely exercise their constitutional right to vote.
The Black American Music Association is partnering with the Voting Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative in an effort to engage Generation Z voters in the election process and educate people on their voting rights. The groups are specifically focused on making a positive impact in underserved communities, many of which are in the 14 swing states and 54 counties with high Black and Latino populations.
BAM and the Voting Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative have aligned with several entertainment industry groups, community organizations, activists, and former election commissioners. The coalition is focused on three main objectives: recruiting members of Gen Z to help staff the polls; educating people on their legal rights so they can make sure their votes are counted; and preventing voter suppression and intimidation.
“The driving force across everything we do at BAM us to transform cultural relevance into community relevance. The 2020 election is one of the most important elections in the history of this country. We wanted to find a way to get young people involved to learn about their civic duty and to reengage those who might be feeling disenfranchised,” said BAM co-founder Judy Klein.
The coalition formed an alliance with DemLabs, which created a free, web-based election tool called SeeSay2020. The tool allows voters to report incidents at the polls in real time and get assistance to help fix the issues. Gen Z-ers, born between 1997 and 2012, are digital natives, which makes them a great fit for helping voters with digital platforms at the polls, according to Klein.
Studies by the Pew Research Center show that Gen Z-ers are “racially and ethnically diverse, progressive, and pro-government, and more than 20 million will be eligible to vote in November.” Because of the pandemic, many young people who would have been able to secure part-time jobs and get work experience now have limited opportunities. Working at the polls, a paid position, gives them experience for their resumes, extra money, and the ability to actively participate in the political process, Klein said.
As a relatively new organization with limited resources, BAM relied on its relationships to support the initiative. It focused on making it easy to engage and asked each partner organization to do one of three things, or a combination of any of the three. “Keep it simple and remember we are all busy and short on time,” she said.
Being diverse and inclusive is also important when building coalitions and consensus. Klein recommends having representatives who understand the cultural and social nuances of each diverse community that is being tapped to engage.
“Find people who are passionate about a common goal,” she said. “They will work tirelessly to accomplish the goals set forth. Belief goes a long way.”