The objective of the local “Celebrating the Dream” initiative that’s currently ongoing is to measure this region’s progress toward racial equality over the past fifty years—which is how long ago the Civil Rights Act was passed--and also to gauge the work that still needs to be done. But because state voting laws were recently changed, some argue that North Carolinians actually stand to regress over the course of the upcoming election. It’s why the state NAACP has organized a crew of Moral Freedom Summer fighters to run a statewide, nonpartisan voter empowerment campaign. And, New Hanover County's resident organizer is already working to mobilize local citizens in time for the fall.
[Chanting] Forward Together! Not one step back. A people, united, can never be defeated. A people, united, can never be defeated…
This is the sound of area citizens breaking into spontaneous chants following a documentary screening about Freedom Summer—a sweeping 1964 campaign to register as many African-American voters as possible in Mississippi, a state notorious at the time for its voter suppression tactics. Fifty years later, the North Carolina NAACP is dispersing about fifty college students and recent graduates—all of whom have undergone intensive voter empowerment training—throughout the state to educate citizens about voting changes such as a shortened early voting period, and more stringent photo ID requirements. Danielle Addison, New Hanover County’s Moral Freedom Summer organizer, says the bulk of her job involves educating voters about the importance of voting--and the history of voter suppression in the South.
"The only way that we’re gonna change it is the education part. Our school systems—they’re not teaching…nothing, honestly, for the children. I wasn’t taught anything about voter registration, and so now, here I am, twenty-three, and I’m just now learning it. Thankfully."
Addison also works to bring various community and church organizations together to address new voting policies. Additionally, New Hanover County’s NAACP chapter is working with Democracy North Carolina—a voting rights watchdog group—to further engage local citizens in the political process.
***For more information about local “Celebrating the Dream” events--which include summits to discuss race, human rights, and socioeconomic issues--visit the organization's website.