On July 16th, UU the Vote partnered with Showing Up for Racial Justice for an evening of values-based phone banking. Volunteers connected with over a thousand voters and continued their own education.
The atmosphere felt like a party upon joining the Zoom call. There was music playing loudly and a brightly colored introduction slide. People introduced themselves in the chat box, welcoming newcomers and greeting acquaintances. It could be hard to imagine that in a short while the roughly 220 participants on the call would be phone banking to white Georgia voters, shifting local power to support anti-racist work. But the energy was so palpable because people had shown up from across the country to make whatever small, important change that they could — and they were ready to take action.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national organization with over 150 chapters and affiliates across the country. UU the Vote partnered with the organization to participate in the final iteration of their seven week long series “Collect Your Cousins” on Thursday, July 16th.
SURJ is an anti-racist organization focused on bringing white people into the effort to dismantle white supremacy and fight for collective liberation. The phone banking event had precisely this mission in mind. Volunteers would be calling a prepared list of registered voters, using a high powered dialing system called ThruTalk. The goal of the event was to identify people who were on board that systemic change is necessary, then invite them into the work.
“Part of the reason that we don’t have electoral power for racial and economic justice is that we have an out-dated conventional wisdom that talking with clarity and courage about racial justice makes you less electable,” Annie Weinberg, a member of SURJ, said at the event. “This is about engaging and expanding the electorate and making sure that folks are connecting with voters about things they actually care about — like racial justice.”
SURJ is in a phase of their campaign focused on building a larger base and providing the opportunity for volunteers to practice and build their skills. Their next step is to encourage conflicted and disaffected voters to join the movement and then turn out to vote.
A crucial part of UU the Vote’s strategy is having values based conversations leading up to the elections. Getting out the vote is so important, but there is a myriad of steps that must lead up to that push. The conversations that were happening on this phone bank were an opportunity to connect with people, motivate them to consider their values, and catapult them into action. The more people that are mobilized and the more partnerships that are intact will only expand efforts towards justice — in this election season, but also beyond 2020.
The more people that are mobilized and the more partnerships that are intact will only expand efforts towards justice — in this election season, but also beyond 2020.
Before the bulk of volunteers began to call voters, there was an optional training. The theme of the evening was self-improvement. “Our job is not to be the most woke person around, our job is to be the most impassioned, courageous, and willing person to step into action,” said Hayden Mora, a SURJ staff member. “We are going to make mistakes; that is the consequence of taking action. But what you did tonight was get off the sidelines, get into action, and make a difference.”
Reverend Meg Riley, the incoming co-moderator and former director of Congregation of the Larger Fellowship, was the guest speaker for the event. Calling from Minneapolis, Rev. Riley situated the position of white people in this watershed moment of racial justice in our nation. “We who are white don’t do this to save black people. We do this to save ourselves. Our liberation is absolutely inseparable from the liberation of Black people, indigenous people, and people of color,” she said. Rev. Riley continued, “I’ve been at this work for a long time and I am one of many to say: this is a moment to act boldly. This, now.”
“I’ve been at this work for a long time and I am one of many to say: this is a moment to act boldly. This, now.”Reverend Meg Riley
By the end of the evening UU the Vote and SURJ volunteers made about 28,000 dials and had conversations with 1,142 voters throughout Georgia. In the entire seven week Collect Your Cousins series, volunteers made almost 350,000 calls. They connected with about 11,500 people and spent over 110,000 minutes calling.
Written by Aidan Wertz, UU the Vote blogger. Aidan is a college student in Middlebury, Vermont and a lifelong UU.