Building the power and amplifying the collective voices of those most directly impacted by social and economic policies is the core of GBM’s strategy for systems change. We call this work “systems change” because systems are those arrangements of power that both reflect and determine who gets what, where and when.
We also build the capacity of non low-income families to support the change agendas of directly impacted low-income families as principled allies. This work is often slow and extremely difficult, but this is the basis of GBM’s 50-year history of community organizing.
2020 Jefferson County Voter Guide
At Greater Birmingham Ministries, we know that when more people have access to their voting rights, when more voters turn out, and when more constituents participate in our democracy in a meaningful way, we can make more of an impact on the issues that matter to us.
With those values in mind, we offered a non-partisan voter guide to help voters make plans for the 2020 General Election. This guide was created by GBM’s program The Exchange, which is a group of mostly Gen Z and millennials who gather monthly to discuss justice issues and what we can do locally. To help us all become better informed participants in our democracy, the group researched each office, candidate, and amendment. In addition to information on the ballot items, this guide also included information for voting by mail and a step-by-step guide to voter preparation. Click here to see the guide.
Jefferson County Memorial Project (JCMP)
JCMP is the Jefferson County partner to the Equal Justice Initiative’s cutting-edge work of remembrance and advocacy and moved to its new programmatic home at GBM in August. JCMP is a grassroots coalition dedicated to helping our community confront racial injustice and advocate for change through research, education, and memorialization. GBM will now work even more closely with JCMP, on initiatives including ending predatory fees and fines, removing arbitrary barriers to voting for formerly convicted persons, and ensuring that currently incarcerated people can register and cast votes in this year’s election.
Vote Safe Alabama
With the leadership of The Exchange, we started a campaign called Vote Safe Alabama. We sent a letter and petition asking Secretary of State John Merrill to expand safe voting options. 3850 individuals signed the petition, and over 50 organizations, faith groups, businesses, and medical professionals signed the accompanying letter.
We have continued remote phone banking to inform people of GBM’s services and remind them about the Census and 2020 Election. Staff and volunteers have made over 3000 calls and spoken directly with about 650 individuals.
Free Absentee Voting Support Days
In developing the Vote Safe Alabama campaign, it was important to us not only to push for structural change but also to do the practical work of accompanying people through the absentee voting process. We organized three outdoor, social-distanced events at GBM on June 27, July 7, and July 11 to provide people with everything they needed to vote absentee.
The Exchange has continued to meet virtually every month. Our June gathering about defunding the police had a lot of participation, and as a follow up, our July gathering discussed abolishing prisons and the #FreeThemAll campaign to free people from jails and detention centers due to Covid-19.
Jail Voter Registration
Our staff facilitated voter registration and absentee ballot applications in Jefferson County Jail with County Commissioner Sheila Tyson and have registered over 100 individuals.
Voting During a Pandemic Webinar
GBM collaborated with several other organizations to hold a webinar about voting during the pandemic. A health professional shared about precautions voters could take to vote in person. Other speakers shared about absentee voting and voter restoration. We shared about our work around the Vote Safe Alabama campaign and the Free Absentee Voting Support events. A lot of important information was shared at this webinar that was useful for the July Run Off and will continue to be useful for the November election.
Tari joined a live virtual town hall in July with Terri Sewell, NAACP, and Bama Kids. They discussed voting and civic engagement. Tari shared about GBM’s work related to expanded voter access options and voter restoration. Majadi presented on census completion during Alabama Coalition for Civic Engagement webinar with coalition partners. Amanda joined the Selma Center for Nonviolence for their Chat and Chew Facebook live about voting. We shared about our work with the Vote Safe Alabama campaign and discussed July voting stories from different parts of the state.