Leadership and Civic Engagement
Voter Participation with Charleston Activist Network
by Nancy Jones on Oct 30, 2018
On September 21, 2018, WREN sat down with Tamika Gadsden, founder of the Charleston Activist Network (CAN), to discuss advocacy for marginalized populations, the voting system, and how to hold your candidates and representatives accountable.
Charleston Activist Network is a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization based out of Charleston that grew out of the Charleston Sister March. CAN focuses on lifting up the voices of the most marginalized, particularly black, brown, and LGBTQ people, in the Charleston Tri-County area, with initiatives such as their Mic’d Up podcast, which interviews a diverse host of people, and their biggest project, a voter registration effort in the black and latinx communities, called the Soul to Sol Salon Project.
The fascinating and wide-ranging video can be found in its entirety here:
We are LIVE with Tamika Gadsden of the Charleston Activist Network to discuss how every vote counts! We'll be talking #VoterRegistrationDay, her Soul to Sol Salon Project, our upcoming panel on the need for women's voices, and more. Tune in with us and comment with a ✔️ emoji if you're watching and/or registered to vote! #FacebookLiveFriday
Posted by Women's Rights and Empowerment Network- WREN on Friday, September 21, 2018
Here are some of the important points Tamika made in her discussion:
- The single most critical thing when you are advocating for marginalized communities is that “you shut up and you listen”. You are there to magnify their voice.
- The biggest barrier Tamika has come up against in her work is white people feeling indicted by the discussion of white fragility and white privilege. It is crucial that people check their own privilege and complicity in the system.
- Tying back to white defensiveness but addressing public discourse in general: when someone’s perspective makes you uncomfortable, sit with your discomfort and examine it. You don’t have to agree intellectually or emotionally, but you do have to work from a basis of respect.
- The media makes it seem like being argumentative and divisive is inherent in being politically active, but the truth is the opposite: the point is to create and empower community. Activism strengthens community members to advocate for themselves.
- One of the best ways to hold policymakers accountable is to hold a public forum. In that situation, they are forced to engage the community and answer difficult questions in an unscripted
- Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions of a candidate. This is another great way to hold policymakers accountable, and while it isn’t always comfortable or popular, it is a critical part of the political process.
- South Carolina deliberately has no printed voting materials in Spanish. Voter disenfranchisement in this manner and others, like gerrymandering and ID laws, is a huge issue. The idea of “get out and vote” makes voting seem easier than it is: the discussion should center around why voter turnout is low, not vilifying those who did not vote.
- The midterm elections in November and the presidential elections in 2020 are not the finish line. CAN is in it for the long game, sowing seeds in marginalized, rural communities and on college campuses so that more and more people find their voice.
We’ll finish with a reminder about what you can do to help change the political landscape for the better: have the tough conversations. Welcome nuance and people who challenge you, because that means you are both thinking critically about your own opinions.
Thanks for engaging with us in this conversation! You can follow along with more of the great work Charleston Activist Network is doing on Twitter and Facebook, and with WREN on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.