The Black Citizenship in Action training was a signature partnership with 12 Black-led organizations across the country and The Equity Alliance’s national partners, Black Progressive Action Coalition (BPAC) and BlackPAC.
When in session, we held local trainings to deepen our community’s shared understanding of our past and present. Discussions were also held to explore our rights as citizens, sharpen our analysis of the political landscape in which we are operating, and collectively develop winning strategies to demand a country that values our Black lives. Overall, this program emphasized our collective journey towards justice and equity.
The program was designed to mirror the Citizenship Schools founded during the Civil Rights Movement by Septima Clark and offered between 1957 – 1970. These independent schools were established throughout the Deep South but started in the State of Tennessee at the Highlander Folk School to serve two purposes: 1) to give participants the skills to return to their communities and motivate others and 2) to teach them literacy and Constitutional understanding so that they could qualify to vote.
Preparing the next generation
Through intensive 4-6 week learning workshops, the Black Citizenship in Action training developed the next generation of Black civic leaders.
It is important for Black voters to see themselves in the democratic process through the appointed, civic, and elected leaders in our community. As a bloc, Black voters hold the key to better representation and wide-scale change. The Equity Alliance relentlessly advocates for civic leadership by encouraging Black people to take leadership roles in shaping policy on the local, state, and national level. Black voters in Tennessee have been disenfranchised through systemic means.
For example, six months after The Equity Alliance led the Tennessee Black Voter Project in an effort to register 91,000 black and brown Tennesseans in 2018, Secretary of State Tre Hargett proposed legislation that would enforce the country’s most aggressive civil and criminal penalties on third-party organizations that submit deficient registration forms during large-scale registration drives. We filed a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. On September 12, 2019, a federal judge ruled on our case and blocked the law from going into effect. We declared victory.