At 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 18, the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina — an official caucus of the South Carolina Democratic Party — along with the community organization, Vision Walkers, will co-host Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders for a “Welcome to My Hood: Missing Voter Canvass.” The canvass will have Senator Sanders and participating members walk through Howell Court, a neighborhood that is part of the historic Booker Washington Heights community. The focus of the event will be to re-engage South Carolina voters who are among the 300,000 who haven’t returned to the polls since President Obama left office.
Johnnie Cordero, Chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina, says “if we’re going to defeat Trump in 2020, we better get serious about black voter outreach. That means it’s time we as a party had a real conversation about race and how it affects economic, social, and environmental justice; and that we respect voters enough to go into their communities and have these conversations with them on their own terms instead of always asking them to come out to us.”
As a grassroots organization, this hands-on approach to community engagement is at the heart of the Vision Walkers’ work. “From day one, our mission has been to empower people to participate in government and know that they have a voice,” says Jason Belton, a founding member of the Vision Walkers. “We’re a group of young men from economically distressed neighborhoods just trying to make a difference and it isn’t always easy because people are quick to judge. We’ve attended council meetings and been judged. We’ve attended Richland County Democratic Party meetings and been judged there, too, but we’re not going to stop working.”
Cordero says that though some Democrats in Richland County may judge young black men like the Vision Walkers, he knows they bring a lot to the table and respects that they’re uniquely positioned to partner on events like the “Welcome to My Hood: Missing Voter Canvass.”
“ Many of the Vision Walkers members are from neighborhoods across the state that a lot of campaign staffers and Democratic activists are afraid to go into. The Vision Walkers aren’t afraid to visit these neighborhoods where many of the missing voters live and knock on doors and talk to people. This is the very essence of grassroots organizing.”
“We know that many of these voters have a lot to offer and are willing to get involved, we saw that during both of Obama’s campaigns,” says Belton. “But they’re back to being ignored. So to have the Democratic Black Caucus welcome us and to be apart of their voter outreach efforts is pretty cool.”
“The Democratic Black Caucus looks forward to having all the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates participate in a “Welcome to My Hood: Missing Voter Canvass,” says Cordero.
“We’re honored that Senator Sanders, was the first candidate to accept our invitation. It shows his commitment to hearing about issues that matter to all voters, no matter what zip code they live in, their economic status, or the size of their house. The “Welcome to our Hood: Missing Voter Canvass” events are not about visiting gated communities with manicured lawns. It’s about visiting neighborhoods that have been forgotten.”
Cordero continues by saying, “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for these missing voters to have face time with candidates because they’re the voters who can and who will decide the next election. It’s also important to recognize that we wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the support of the South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman, Trav Robertson, who has been behind us every step of the way.”
Senator Sanders was the first candidate to schedule his event. Other candidates have begun the planning process for their own event with former HUD Secretary, Julian Castro anticipated to finalize details of his event in the coming weeks.
For details about this event, or to learn more about the DBCSC and how candidates can schedule a “Welcome to My Hood: Missing Voter Canvass” event, contact Michael Bailey, Public Relations Officer for the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina at [email protected].