By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
The importance of voting in the November elections and filling out the 2020 census were among the widely discussed issues during this weekend’s Birmingham Freedom Fest, which moved online this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The fest was livestreamed Saturday on YouTube and also featured conversations on immigration, female leadership, LGBTQ issues and Black activism in technology.
Musical performances included Rapsody, Translee, Pastor Mike Jr., Sherri Brown and Shaheed & DJ Supreme and in addition a virtual tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
However, most of the panelists throughout the day emphasized the importance of voting in the upcoming general election on Nov. 3, which is less than 100 days away.
“Voting is so important. It is almost sacred, basic, but so fundamental a right as an Americans,” said Jordan Davis, Host, Poppin’ Policies Podcast, during the “Passing The Torch” panel, which featured young adults on how the next generation is leading the charge to equality and fairness for all. “Do something you think is worthwhile that you can contribute to a society you can be proud of a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. That starts right now.”
Davis encourage young people to start a podcast; start a blog; get on an Instagram Live “and just make your voice heard . . . that is what matters and what counts and what is going to get us a better country in the coming years.”
Austin Smith, Student Organizer, Doug Jones For Senate Campaign, said only 36 percent of young people voted in the 2018 during the mid-term elections.
“If that voting bloc increases we have the potential to do anything we want to do — see any law that we want to see passed; see whatever representation we want to see . . . We can’t a seat back while the older generations try to write the rules.”
During a panel on “The South Got Somethin’ to Say: Politics 2020”, panelists discussed a variety of issues including the 2020 census.
“The census is the all-important thing right now . . . so much federal money comes into the states based on census,” said Doug Jones, Democrat U.S. senator for Alabama, who is running against Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville in November. “In Alabama, we are in serious danger of losing a Congressional seat. That is a big deal, even if it’s a Republican seat or a Democratic seat. We’re going to lose a seat in Congress. We lose an electoral vote. That’s all important as well.”
Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action, Democratic party nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, said the census, counted every decade, could be considered as important as the presidential election.
“Voters are not just fighting the 2016 election, which is critical, but also 2010 with regard to the census,” Abrams said. “Just as they did in 2010 the Republicans are intent on undoing the democratic efforts of citizens by using the census process to gerrymander our states.
“And in the South this is particularly dangerous because the intent by the president of the United States to unconstitutionally exclude undocumented persons from the census count, while there are those who would argue that should not be counted, that’s not how the constitution works. The constitution says you count every person here.”
The intent is to use “this intentional miscount to redraw the lines in several states so they do not have to comply with the racial gerrymandering prohibition that remains in the constitution,” Abrams said.
Last summer, the inaugural festival was hosted in and around Kelly Ingram Park and 5,000 festival goers from across the community gathered in the Birmingham’s Civil Rights district for the event.