Black Women’s Roundtable summit takes on youth, voter suppression

September 13, 2012  |  Florida Courier  |  Link to article


The Black Women’s Roundtable attracted women from Florida and Washington, D.C. The summit convened last month during the time of the Republican National Convention. (PHOTOS BY KERRY COLLIER/CENTER FOR COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE)

A coalition of African-American women convened the Black Women’s Roundtable last month at St. Petersburg’s Center for Community and Economic Justice.

Melanie Campbell, national president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, collaborated with 30 organizational heads from across Florida in a dialogue emphasizing the continuing economic and problems facing Black youth.

Prominent among the presenters was Jessica Brown, National Coordinator of Black Youth Vote, who traveled from Washington, D.C. for the summit, as did Campbell.

The Black Women’s Roundtable was held Aug. 29, during the time of the Republican National Convention. A similar one was held in Charlotte, N.C., during the Democratic National Convention.

Mission of summit
Organizers say the mission of the summit was to help focus the presidential contestants on substantive issues rather than on the divisive distractions, which continue to pre-empt job creation and training solutions; juvenile justice system reforms; poverty reduction and the obstructions to Black wealth creation; disproportionate impacts of the housing-market implosion and foreclosures; non-violent offenses’ sentencing reform; and voter suppression practice.

Headlining the summit was Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, who also traveled to St. Petersburg from Washington, to provide a tutorial for Black women leaders on voter suppression tactics, to help them educate their constituents, organizations and community members in countering the rampant Black voter disenfranchisement in Florida.

The women leaders related suppression experiences observed or reported during the campaigns and at the voting booths in their communities.

‘No excuse’
Chloe Coney, district director for Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa and Shahra Anderson, regional director for Senator Bill Nelson in Orlando, participated in the summit and provided additional tools for strengthening Black voter participation.

They also advised that effective volunteerism during the presidential campaign and election can stimulate voter participation and turnout.

“Everyone has the opportunity and the obligation to enlist their church leaders and their social organization leaders in getting out the vote. There is no excuse for silence in an election where so much is at stake for the future of our priorities and of our youth,’’ said Campbell.

Also co-conveners for the summit were Salandra Benton, Chair, Florida Coalition for Black Civic Participation, based in Kissimmee; Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, president/CEO of the Center for Community and Economic Justice, Inc., the venue for the event; Gypsy Gallardo, founder/publisher, Power Broker Magazine; and Dr. Elsie Scott, president and CEO, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The importance of the 18-25 year-olds votes in previous elections was emphasized by National Black Youth Vote Coordinator Jessica Brown while Dr. Scruggs-Leftwich made notes during the summit.

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