By Laneisha Butler, Youth Organizer

Voters of color matter and make the difference, especially in close races, as election results in Alabama reminded us this week. In a state plagued with voter suppression, Black voters overcame various disenfranchising barriers and showed up in larger numbers for that special election than even typically seen in a midterm election.

Similarly, here in Oakland we want to increase civic engagement among our young people of color. We just wrapped up our fall 2017 voter registration campaign last month, and it’s obvious that our work with young people of color must continue in 2018 as elections approach.

It was our first time running a voter registration campaign in partnership with YVote, a network of organizations reaching out to young people of color to spark change through electoral organizing, locally and statewide. I registered 353 youth of color between the ages of 16-24 to vote, contributing to the network’s statewide total of 11,820 young voters registered during this campaign. As part of my outreach effort, I presented and tabled at several of Oakland’s high schools, youth programs, Laney Community College, and youth-focused events. Through my presentations, I taught youth facts about our ancestors being systemically locked out of voting, victories for which our people fought, and today’s voter registration eligibility. But what seemed to have the deepest impact was having them take a pre-Civil Rights era literacy test which opened their eyes to what burdened many of our ancestors and blocked them from partaking in the right to vote. This tool agitated many youth of color to register to vote, commit to take action within our community, turn out to polls in the 2018 elections, and vote in future elections.

This year’s voter registration campaign provided me with important lessons on how best to connect with youth in Oakland, and a chance to begin building relationships with our community’s teachers and youth leaders. It touched me to hear from so many high school students about how much my presentations impacted them and their views about participating in voting. I look forward to more interactions like these with students next year as we expand our youth voter education program.

I am excited to be a part of this statewide movement that builds up young leaders like myself so that we can educate and organize our peers. After all, we youth of color will soon be California’s largest demographic, which means flexing our power will impact how our state is ran and how our communities are served. With our vote, we can win local and statewide elections to create the change we need.




570 14th Street, Suite 6
Oakland, CA 94612

Oakland Rising and our collaborative partners are united in our vision for a city that embodies health, happiness, safety, and equal opportunities for all. Our goal is to create a model of progress and sustainability that showcases the possibilities for American cities in the 21st century. We are committed to dismantling the barriers of racial, economic, political, environmental, and educational inequities that have divided us, and instead, embracing the collective strength found in our city’s diversity. We firmly believe that Oakland can achieve its full potential when every resident, student, and bus rider has the ability to shape our city’s future. This vision is attainable and we are determined to realize it through our collective actions, whether it’s through voting, meetings, or call to actions.

Every year, we release a Vision, Issues, and Policy Platform (VIPP) which outlines the annual policies that we and our eight partner organizations prioritize in order to advance racial, economic, and environmental justice in the Town. Our collaborative’s agenda encompasses a range of critical initiatives, from expanding affordable housing to creating a more equitable democracy through campaign finance reforms. These priorities are designed to provide vital protections and innovative solutions for the most vulnerable members of our community. As we continue our efforts to promote these policies, we hold conversations with thousands of voters, lead and co-host impactful town hall meetings, educate and mobilize residents and voters, and undertake various other initiatives.

To gain a deeper understanding of our commitment to resist, protect, and advance in this political moment, we invite you to explore our 2023 Vision, Issues, and Policy Platform. Together, we are making strides towards a more equitable and just Oakland, and we remain steadfast in our pursuit of change, one vote, one meeting, one march at a time.

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Oakland Rising is a project from our hearts for the people of Oakland. Thank you for your contribution!