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Insights from Alabama survey exemplify necessity to amplify Black voices

Black Southern Women’s Collaborative surveyed Black voters in Alabama, placing emphasis on community empowerment for change.

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On Tuesday, the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative shared findings from their community surveys of nearly 2,000 Black voters in Alabama.

The project, executed by Robinson Consulting, held listening sessions and dispersed printed and online surveys at community events, churches, HBCU homecoming events and door-knocking from Aug. 23, 2023 to Jan. 15, 2024 to document voting challenges and concerns held by Black voters.

“We wanted to remind people while they were in Black joy,” said Onoyemi Williams, Faith in Action Alabama deputy director. “We don’t want to talk while we are in crisis.”

Some topics covered Included redistricting, jury selection, lack of public opinion research targeting Black voters and strategies for engagement. 

One factor that their findings emphasized was the view that Black people are often accounted for in surveys as a group, rather than individuals with individual needs, and in public opinion research, overlooked as a whole in the South. 

“Those closest to the pain are often closest to the solution,” said Anneisha Hardy, Alabama Values executive director.

When covered by the media, the stories center around single votes cast instead of how the day-to-day lives of Black voters can be impacted by larger issues. 

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A main takeaway for the group was that when Black voters are engaged with a legitimate interest, they are willing to participate in projects that focus on creating solutions for societal issues, like voter turnout. When asked about the lack of representation in surveys, leaders have cited a lack of interest as their rationale.

Voter turnout in Alabama has reached record lows in the past 30 years. Only 62 percent of Alabamians that registered cast votes in the 2020 presidential election, despite a rise in registration. Black voters made up almost 27 percent of ballots cast.

In the 2022 midterms, only 38.5 percent of registered voters cast votes for the Alabama-specific offices. 

Some of the project’s calls to action after the release of this information are using their findings to on-ramp more engagement and organizing efforts and train more organizers in the state. Alabama officials and philanthropies should recognize that communities that are empowered and informed have the power to impact. 

The BSCW discussed the recent redrawing of the 2nd District redrawing in South Alabama, noting the changes Black voters can see when organizing. 

“We have the ability to not only change what’s around us but to cause ripple effects,” said Williams.

Mary Claire is a reporting intern.

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