A national coalition of young racial justice organizers has launched a public education campaign to change how young people think about voting and boost turnout for this year's election. The #KnowYourPower campaign will use social media to reach millennials, the demographic cohort whose starting birth year is usually identified as 1982.
Leading the campaign is a national network called the Freedom Side that involves young leaders from more than two dozen grassroots organizations including the Dream Defenders in Florida, Active Voices in Georgia, Better Schools Better Jobs Mississippi, the North Carolina NAACP, and United We Dream in Texas. Their agenda focuses on participatory democracy, good jobs, quality education, and decriminalization.
The online campaign is a way to extend the reach of grassroots voter education work already underway in the four states the Freedom Side is focusing on this summer: Florida, Mississippi and Texas in the South, and Ohio in the North.
The #KnowYourPower campaign takes its inspiration from the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi -- in particular the Mississippi Freedom Schools, which provided an alternative curriculum for black youth that emphasized political organizing and civic participation. But instead of holding classes in churches, parks and homes, #KnowYourPower will engage young people through social media using informational graphics, story sharing, live event streams, and interactive web chats.
"We have the power to shape the policies that govern us, and voting is a part of the process to hold those we elect to represent us accountable," said Sherika Shaw, a Dream Defender working with a team to organize their Miami Freedom School. "By creating spaces that allow young people to discuss their lived experiences and envision solutions to the collective problems we face, this summer we are starting to build a bloc of voters that moves not along party lines -- but on our issues, values and principles."
The #KnowYourPower campaign will hold a live webcast and Twitter chat at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 10, featuring young people affected by the school-to-prison pipeline and school closings. From August 13 to 15, Freedom Side will live broadcast parts of the Dream Defenders Miami Freedom Schools. Future events will focus on criminalization, immigration, jobs and voting rights. The campaign will run up to Election Day.
The organizers see this summer's effort as as the first step toward building a sustainable civic engagement structure led by youth of color. For more information about the campaign, follow @FreedomSide on Twitter and visit www.freedomside.org. The Freedom Side is also on Instagram.