Right to vote transcends party loyalties
LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, all designed to boost Black voter registration and turnout and increase voting power among communities of color and marginalized communities in the U.S. Brown was the featured speaker last month at Westminster Town Hall Forum’s “On Democracy” series.
“In 2021,” said Brown in her 20-minute address at the downtown Minneapolis church, “in the United States of America we’re still grappling with this question: Can we provide equal and fair access to all the citizens of this nation? We’re dealing with this question of democracy.”
Brown decried the current political environment in Washington and elsewhere.
Prior to her scheduled visit, Brown said in an MSR phone interview that she looked forward to coming to the hometown of Prince. She told the audience she is the late singer’s biggest fan and got to visit Paisley Park during her time here last week.
“We’ve got to call it and say that the Democrats—the majority party in both houses of Congress—actually do have the power. But do they have the political will to do it?” stressed Brown on fighting for voting rights. A voting rights bill has been stalled in the U.S. Senate for months now.
“We’ve got to actually see our fight for democracy beyond the constraints of political parties,” she continued. “We’ve got to actually start advocating some different interventions that will hold. The protection of our rights [should] not be contingent upon who is in power.”
Brown’s passion for voting justice is unmistakable and vividly expressive. She acted like an evangelist who began and ended her Westminster speech with a Gospel song, then used the church pulpit to virtually preach to the “congregation” audience. Everyone, she said, “could literally create a system, a democratic system that is inclusive, that is reflective of the population.”
A 2020-21 American Democracy fellow at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard, Brown told the MSR of her vision of “the establishment of a Department of Democracy…as part of the federal government. The sole purpose is…to provide oversight and provide protection for the civil rights, the democratic rights of voters in this country,” she explained.
She likened her vision to the Homeland Security Department that was established shortly after 9/11. “America is in crisis, and this proposed cabinet position is needed now more than ever,” said Brown.
“We know that the Republicans simply are anti-democratic and the Democrats don’t have the backbone to do what it takes to make sure that democracy is protected,” she said. “Our power as people is not going to be contingent upon the power of a party.”
Change must come from the people, preached Brown. “We’ve got to have some intervention that citizens like myself, everyday citizens, we are the people that make America work. We’re going to have to take leadership…and create those interventions that are going to shift the power for us.
“We don’t have the luxury of being apathetic,” said Brown. “We have to literally move on to transactional politics. Some of us are going to have to be bold enough to actually imagine the whole idea of transformative politics.”
Brown asked the audience to close their eyes for a few moments and imagine what America would look like without racism. “We have to shift the paradigm,” she stressed. “Right now in the political spectrum, it’s like a football game with a blue team and a red team. We cannot get caught up in the political climate.”
Brown told the MSR that the fight for change must be intergenerational. “I don’t know if there’s any generation that has been more frustrated than the others,” she responded. “Young people are very clear. They don’t have any sense of party loyalty.
“I’m seeing younger voters actually articulate that there is an expectation that something different is going to happen,” said Brown. But she admits it’s a struggle: “The biggest lie was told that the White man was superior to everybody else. Over and over they have proven that is not true.”
Nonetheless, Brown remains realistically hopeful that change can and will come to America. “We got to take our democracy back. We’ve got to create our democracy, and we got to demand something greater, something better, more inclusive, and more ethical.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.