Faith Group Starts Voter Effort

by: Shantella Y. Sherman Special to the AFRO ssherman@afro.com
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The PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organizations) National Network is mounting a get out the vote effort. On Oct. 18, the organization said it was targeting states with competitive U.S. Senate races in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania. PICO is a collection of 45 groups in 150 U.S. cities and towns committed to changing the world through faith.

The PICO Organization has held faith based campaigns throughout the country to encourage Blacks to stand together and vote. (Courtesy photo)
The PICO Organization has held faith based campaigns throughout the country to encourage Blacks to stand together and vote. (Courtesy photo)

Clergy participants, including the Rev. Dr. Troy Jackson, executive director, AMOS Project; Molly Shack, Lead Organizer, Ohio Organizing Collaborative; and the Rev. Canon Shannon MacVean-Brown, Christ Church Cathedral discussed ballot initiatives led by PICO clergy and staff such as pre-K expansion in Cincinnati, minimum wage in Colorado, public transit in Indiana, voting rights restoration for persons with prior felony convictions in Florida, and rent controls in California.

“When it comes to presidential elections, our nation often looks to political parties, labor unions, and other advocacy groups to lead the way in terms of voter engagement and voter turnout,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director for PICO National Network. “For faith leaders, however, our beliefs compel us to action. In this instance, its encouraging people of faith to make their voices heard at the ballot box; and we are sparing no expense to accomplish this goal.”

With the 2016 presidential election mere weeks away, PICO activities include a massive Together We Vote program – a multi-faith, multi-racial voter engagement program. Believed to be the largest, volunteer-led voter registration, education, and turnout program in the United States, PICO National Network set a goal of engaging with 1 million Black, Latino, Asian-American, White, and youth voters of faith.

Citing non-stop headlines of police killing Blacks and Latinos as a fear and anger generating platform that has literally turned Americans against each other, participants discussed how best to stand up for justice while maintaining faith. Clergymen, including Jackson expressed a goal of creating 100 percent voting congregations and urging voters and volunteers to join racial and economic justice campaigns.

“People of faith are inspired by this chance to vote for children, for families, and for our shared future this election season,” Jackson said during the announcement. “We are witnessing hundreds of volunteers dedicated to doing all we can for children and families.”

Reverend Michael McBride, PICO director of Urban Strategies and Live Free campaign, told radio broadcasters that the Church has always been instrumental in aiding those who suffer injustice and supplying them with the spiritual and social tools to improve their lot.

“This system is a mean system and an evil one that is addicted to the blood and suffering of Black bodies. The Church was necessary to incubate us from feeling the full brunt of that suffering,” McBride told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “The powers that be have been able to create a system and a structure that plugs people into certain roles and when you refuse to play those roles, you either get punished for it, or you have to outlive the stigma associated with it. Let history correct itself. We need to address that.”

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