In conjunction with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, the Leo T. McCarthy Center hosted a virtual event on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, to discuss the right to vote and the role voting plays in inciting long-term, structural change.
The event, “Speaking Truth to Power — Election 2020” featured guests David Goodman, founder of the Andrew Goodman Foundation; Clarence B. Jones, director of the Institute of Nonviolence and Social Justice at USF and former counsel to Martin Luther King Jr., and members of the USF Votes team.
David Goodman founded the Andrew Goodman Foundation following the murder of his brother at the hands of 18 Klu Klux Klan members in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964. Andrew Goodman, along with Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and many others, were murdered in an attempt to silence their activism which was part of a project called “Freedom Summer,” an effort to register Black people to vote in Mississippi.
“The mission of the Andrew Goodman Foundation is to make young voices, and votes, a powerful force of democracy,” David Goodman said. “Our program called Vote Everywhere, which is at USF, is to train leaders to put together voter registration and get out the vote campaigns.” Currently, the foundation spans 83 colleges with 1.4 million student voters, 10,000 of whom are at USF.
Jones met David Goodman when he came to visit the Goodman family in Mississippi when his brother Andrew Goodman was still reported as “missing.” Both men learned of Andrew’s true fate more than 50 days later. Since then, Jones has been a relentless supporter of the Andrew Goodman Foundation and its efforts to encourage young people to vote.
“The experience of losing his brother and seeing what happened with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner and seeing the reality of the Klan [trying] to prevent Negros from voting caused David to want to form the Andrew Goodman Foundation in honor of his brother and dedicate his life to celebrating and promoting the right to vote,” Jones said. “The Andrew Goodman Foundation dedicates themselves to ensuring that once and for all, it’d be possible to register to vote without having to lose your life.”
Goodman, Jones, and members of the USF Votes team facilitated discussion that spanned topics including the economy, the coronavirus, mass unemployment, loss of healthcare, safe reopening measures, climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police brutality.
Sophomore politics major and first-time voter Sophia Sanchez said, “There are a lot of things that are going on in this country, but it’s important that we remain hopeful and that we get out the vote, that we talk to each other, and have those very crucial and important conversations.”
According to senior politics major Amaya Fox, one of the biggest obstacles to voting equality is many politicians themselves because they “turn a blind eye to these issues because more often than not.” Fox, who is also an Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassador, said she sees similarities between voter suppression techniques of the Jim Crow era such as poll taxes, grandfather clauses, voter intimidation tactics, and literacy tests, and a new type of voter suppression that she described as “an emergence of contemporary voter suppression tactics that are much more discreet and entrenched in our racist institution.”
For Jones, the continual voter suppression in the U.S. does not come as a surprise. “Even when the most concerted effort is made to empower voting, there are continual obstacles,” Jones said. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It means that every day, 24/7, we have to figure out what we can do in practical terms to affect the right to vote, to implement the right to vote, knowing that everything we seek to do, impediments are going to be imposed.”
One of the takeaways from the conversation was the need to mobilize young voters. Angeline Vuong, assistant director for public service programs at the Leo T. McCarthy Center, along with the team at USF Votes, aims to provide a pathway toward civic engagement for USF students.
“Young people aged 18 to 29 are the largest and most underrepresented voter group in this country in the last election. Among eligible USF students, only 54.6% actually voted in 2016,” Vuong said. “Voter suppression is alive and strong and continues to disempower millions of people, particularly young people who don’t think that their vote matters.”
The 2020 presidential election is on Nov. 3. To confirm your registration status, go to https://www.usa.gov/confirm-voter-registration.