MoveOn Member Stories: Why I, a child of the Civil Rights Era, am voting in 2020
By Queen Jackson, MoveOn member
What motivates me to be an activist comes from my family. It comes from being a witness to the Civil Rights Movement when I was a child. My parents would sit for hours talking about the issues, explaining the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Civil Rights Movement. They would vow to fight against Barry Goldwater for President and his “Go Back to Africa” campaign. My Godmother, who was also my Great Aunt, founded the NAACP chapter in my hometown of Oroville, CA.where she also worked as a poll worker every election. It was the many Black churches preaching about and raising money for the Civil Rights movement. It was singing “We Shall Overcome” at every Sunday morning church service. It was being taught by example the importance of being aware of the issues and being involved in the community.
I come from a family of activists. At the height of the movement, after the footage of protestors being knocked down with water from fire hoses, members of my hometown community became outraged. Most of the African American elders in my community migrated from the south, and like the south, through the churches the adults came together and organized a march in solidarity with Dr. King and all the people protesting in the south. My father had learned the sheriff’s department might harm us if we marched, but being who he was, he wasn’t going to let that deter us. He instead informed all the pastors, congregations, and community members what he learned and since the adults planned to bring their children they decided we would instead march in the middle of the night.
One night my six siblings and I were awoken out of our sleep. While my mother dressed my younger siblings, we older ones were told to, “Get up, and put our clothes on. We’re going out.” My parents explained to us where we were going and why during the car ride to the rendezvous point the march would start from. Signs were put in our hands to carry as we quietly marched down the street on the south side of Oroville in the middle of the night with a large number of people from our community, all carrying signs calling for equal rights, the end of Jim Crow and the nationwide legalization of voting for all citizens. It’s an experience that profoundly touched me, that I still carry in the inner sanctum of my soul. My parents, elders and youthful experiences taught me the importance of standing up for what’s right and what I believe in.
A few years later, during the Civil Rights era, my uncle, with my aunt who was also his wife, as his campaign manager, ran for mayor in Berkeley, CA. My dad wanted two of my six siblings and I to experience the inner workings of a political campaign, so he took us out of school for two weeks and sent us to stay with our aunt and uncle in Berkeley. We along with our Berkeley cousins worked tirelessly knocking on doors, passing out flyers, door jamming, calling people and stuffing envelopes. Election night we experienced history when my uncle won and became the first African-American mayor of Berkeley.
When Obama was running back in 2008, in honor of my father who had passed away in 2001, I wanted to help elect him. So I joined the campaign as a volunteer and did some phone banking and texting, but when he won, I felt like we had finally made it so I started to get complacent in my activism compared to before his tenure. As time went by I noticed the disrespectful things being done and said about him and his family. Things we would never see or hear about his predecessors, but when Donald Trump won in 2016 my blood boiled. When I saw the youth walk out of their classes the day after the election chanting “not my president”, I was right there with them in spirit. He isn’t nor will he ever be president for all Americans. He’s the president for his base and his base only, and that’s not right. When he won, I joined the resistance. I joined MoveOn.
As a MoveOn member, I’ve been signing and sharing petitions with my community on social platforms, been a MoveOn Moderator, and I’ve been on MoveOn’s Support Team. Most recently for this election cycle, I’m a Vote Mobilizer where I assemble a team of people to make sure they have plans to vote and can get other people to make plans to vote. I’ve also been following up with people who signed up to be Vote Mobilizers to make sure they’re getting their team ready. Those conversations happen over text, but it’s never just a ‘yes, I’m ready’ or ‘no, I’m still getting ready’ kind of conversations. These interactions are a little more involved. People will respond and tell me that they have been laid off, furloughed, now rely on food banks, or about to be evicted. You have to listen to people because they are hurting, they are scared, and they need someone to talk to.
The fear and desperation people feel is a direct result of this administration, which is why I am supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Joe Biden has the experience and knowledge to get our country back on track. He has the compassion to understand how people feel and what people are going through because he’s been there. He knows what it’s like to live in the lower income part of town. When Joe says, “I want to restore the soul of our nation. Heal the soul of our nation,” I know that’s what we need. We need healing.
I, like so many, cannot sit this election cycle out. I will vote because so many people gave their lives for our right to vote. I vote because it’s my voice. I think about all my ancestors who could not vote. I vote because we must.
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MoveOn members and Vote Mobilizers like Queen want to make sure that we can remove Donald Trump from office. Vote Mobilizers are building teams of at least 10 eligible voters across battleground states to make sure people have plans to get out the vote in November. Together, we’ll create a better tomorrow.