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2020 Midterm Elections

Race to the Midterms: Kirby and Jones on race, hope and voting

National Black Justice Coalition has released GOTV video



(Graphic by Max Huskins/Los Angeles Blade)

MAGA Republicans seem so intent on demonstrating their anti-LGBTQ cruelty, on Oct. 18, 33 Republican members of Congress introduced the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022 — quickly dubbed the national “Don’t Say Gay” law — right in the middle of National Bully Prevention Month

If Republicans take control of the House and Senate, as well as down-ballot state races, we can expect more and more absurd and intentionally cruel legislation targeting women, people of color and LGBTQ people.

Bottom line: If the latest polls are right and Republicans are picking up steam, the midterm elections on Nov. 8 could mark the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it.  

With just three weeks to go, Victoria Kirby, deputy executive director at the National Black Justice Coalition, announced the release of a new Get-Out-The-Vote video. In a Zoom interview for Race to the Midterms, Kirby offers hope and encouragement, noting that in 2018, when times seemed so dark and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was stacking the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary with justices pre-selected by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society to reflexively give Republicans legal victories and power, the people — especially MAGA-designated groups targeted for second class citizenship — defied the polls and the odds and stopped the MAGA plans for America on the eve of destruction.   

“We turned out in record numbers during a midterm when people said we wouldn’t,” says Kirby. “LGBTQ people, people of color, young people, differently abled or disabled people. We showed up and showed out and we got rid of folks in those statehouses and governor’s mansions. We took back a chamber of Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives, and then in 2020, progressives were able to have — plus Georgia in the 2020 midterms, got to give a shout out to Georgia — we were able to have this 50-50 U.S. Senate that, no, didn’t allow us to get some of the legislation we wanted signed into law but was able to stop some pretty bad things from being able to become the law of the land.”

When people are frightened or wonder — as they are now — if their vote matters, Kirby vociferously points out that “when we showed up and showed out in 2018 and 2020, we changed the course of the strategy of the far right who want it and had a really good plan. They almost came close to implementing, to completely hijacking our democracy and our nation’s values. And we can do that again in just a couple of weeks.”

For at least 233 years, Black people and women have been fighting for the ideals upon which America was founded — since 1789 when the Constitution was ratified with a Preamble that started with three words that launched the American experiment in democracy: “We The People.” Those words ring hollow for too many who doubt that the U.S. government exists to represent and serve its citizens.

 “When we look at our Constitution as it was originally written, the only people that began with the right to vote were land owning white men,” says Kirby, noting the “huge fight for centuries” over who to exclude from the right to have the opportunity to have representation that represents the issues that you care about in the policies that you know you need to improve your life. That included pushing to get the right to vote for folks who were enslaved and considered three fifths of a human, like my ancestors. And then, also included, being able to win women’s suffrage, which we just celebrated the hundredth anniversary of, which still didn’t include all women because there were still barriers that were being put in place. 

“And we’ve had, constitutionally, these rights,” Kirby continues. “But if you don’t have access to the right, it doesn’t matter what’s on paper. It matters what’s also in practice. And so when you look at the civil rights movement and the work of leaders like John Lewis and so many others, the advocacy they did to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to have that long march to Selma where people were sprayed down with water hoses, had dogs, biting them, were beaten with police sticks and worse — there are people who lost their lives in the fight to vote. And although there were protections that were given in this in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted those rights with the Shelby decision. And part of what they gutted were the protections that ensured that the access to the ballot were unfettered.” 

Kirby notes that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act “would help to put back in place those pre-clearance requirements and update the maps of districts that are required to submit a paperwork before Department of Justice, because it’s not the entire country. It’s pockets of the country that have a history of discriminating against marginalized communities.”

If Republicans win the midterms, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Equality Act and virtually all other legislation to move America towards a more perfect union will die on the vines, strangled by the weeds planted by autocrat-wanna-be Donald Trump and his GOP acolytes. 

Kirby notes that the National Black Justice Coalition has a Voter Hub at their website with resources to help people check their voter registration and vote-by-mail information. 

Venton Jones is among our democracy warriors fighting on the frontline. The 36-year old Black gay, HIV-positive native of Dallas is running for state representative for Texas House District 100. Jones is running to represent the people who raised him, who know him, the people with whom he has shared his life and dreams. 

For candidate’s website click on image.

“One of the main reasons that I’m running is because I’ve been afforded the amazing opportunity to be able to learn and dive into public policy through my work in addressing public health through working to address the HIV epidemic — working within the African-American community and the LGBTQ community, and now using that experience to bring that home and to be able to help change outcomes, not only in the community that I grew up in, but also in the state of Texas,” says Jones. 

In a classic understatement, Jones says Texas “is in desperate need of leadership.” He wants “to make sure that we’re not continuing to perpetuate the hatred and bigotry that we continue to not only see statewide, but also that we see in our national discourse. So, I ran to make a difference and use the experience that I’ve gained to be able to do that necessary work, particularly for a new generation of leaders that have been able to learn and grow from so many fighters that I’ve seen, particularly addressing HIV and public health” in the 1980s and the ongoing racial justice work “that that’s so needed” in our state and national discourse. 

“Working in HIV, you also saw that it wasn’t just about public health,” Jones says. “You know, these communities at this intersection also faced larger socioeconomic disadvantages, more racism, more stigma, more discrimination in those circles. And so, one thing that I committed the last 20 years of my career to doing before running for office was to work unapologetically in that space.”

But Jones would bring not only his experience to the Texas State House — he would bring a much needed, more profound understanding of a spiritual need humanity is missing right now.

“I can say from a very young point in my age and also in my career, the conversation about intersectionality has been very present,” Jones says. “As a Black gay man from the state of Texas, I could not remove one identity or the other if I tried — and I chose not to, especially when it came to learning how to be in a space of authenticity, because that voice is important right now.”

Please check out or full video interviews with NBJC’s Vicky Kirby and candidate Venton Jones. Hopefully they will inspire you to get engaged and especially — to vote!

Victoria Kirby York and Venton Jones on NBJC, Race and Voting:


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