Arekia Bennett and Velvet Johnson are young, Black Mississippi women who work for MS Votes, a statewide organization that “empowers young people, encourages civic engagement, and educates communities on voting rights through place-based grassroots organizing.” Bennett is the organization’s executive director, while Johnson is program director.
People of the millennial generation or younger staff and lead MS Votes, an organization that a group of college students founded in 2016. Young leadership puts the organization in a unique position to engage Mississippi’s young people about civic involvement.
MS Votes leaders believe real investment in the community is necessary to achieve electoral justice. As Bennett explained to Scalawag Magazine, the goal is to effect lasting change in the community rather than simply striving to get out the vote for any one election or candidate. They want to change the minds of people in the community, helping them to see themselves and their votes as valuable to the democratic process.
The organization’s plans for the upcoming Juneteenth celebration in the historic Farish Street district grew out of MS Votes’ commitment to community engagement in Jackson.
“Each year we embark upon a journey we call ‘Up2Us’—more commonly in the voting-rights arena known as a ‘get out the vote effort.’ Since 2018, our campaign has registered thousands of voters across the state,” Johnson explains. “This year we are launching our #Up2Us campaign in Jackson on Juneteenth. We hope to engage the community around the upcoming midterm elections as well as celebrate Black love, Black joy and Black resistance.”
MS Votes has partnered with other local organizations, including Black Voters Matter Mississippi, the 8th district AME churches, Midtown Law Group, One Voice, the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, Mississippi in Action, Strong Arms of Jackson and the People’s Advocacy Institute to present this community celebration.
The family-friendly event is on Sunday, June 19, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., and will include children’s activities, live entertainment, food trucks, and more.
Join MFP Live Thursday, June 16, at 6 p.m., on the MFP Facebook page or YouTube channel to learn more about MSVotes’ Juneteenth celebration, as well as the important work that the organization is doing around the state.
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