In the course of my work at Civic Nebraska, I’ve spent a good amount of time at the State Capitol with our Director of Voting Rights, John Cartier. One thing that I’ve noticed is that on many days I am the only Black or Brown person in the Rotunda. While this lack of diversity is not surprising, it has always been disappointing.
That’s why when I heard it was time to start planning for the 2nd annual Black and Brown Lobby Day in collaboration with Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals, Coalition for a Strong Nebraska, ACLU Nebraska and other organizations, I could not have been happier. It was an awesome experience working with these organizations and members of the community to remind legislators of the diversity we have in this state and to force them to put a face on who would be affected by discriminatory Voter ID bills.
When we arrived at the Unicameral we heard from Senator Justin Wayne, who spoke on the importance of the people, especially people of color, directly engaging with elected officials in order to hold them accountable. He also filled the group in on the dangers of an unfair redistricting process and the effects it could have on communities of color.
After hearing from Senator Wayne and being recognized by the legislature, we headed to a hearing room to practice giving testimony. One bill we focused on during practice was LB1027, legislation that would restore the right to vote for returning citizens.
It was amazing seeing a whole new generation of young people becoming engaged on this issue and understanding the importance of voting rights. Perhaps the best part of the whole day was watching the training put directly to use when several individuals voiced opposition testimony to LB1115. This is a bill Civic Nebraska is opposing this session, which would remove noncitizens from the count when election districts are redrawn. Many of the advocates were testifying for the first time, but what they said was incredibly well thought out and touching.
Few things in my life have brought me more joy than seeing the lobby of the Nebraska State Capitol absolutely packed with young black and brown people ready to be engaged in their government, and it is exactly what I picture when I think of a more modern and robust democracy. I am already excited to start working on the next Black and Brown Lobby Day because this year’s was the most empowering experience during my time as Policy Organizer for Civic Nebraska.
If you want to be a part of a powerful event like this, join me on Tuesday, March 6th for Civic Nebraska’s Voting Rights Lobby Day. You can find more information here, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org