Although the subject of Black female activists fighting for voting rights has been rehashed in the media in the 2020 Presidential Election and the US Senate runoffs in Georgia. It was clear that Black female voting rights activists were pivotal in affecting the change to a new administration. In January, coinciding with the runoffs, Time reprinted a November article illuminating the chronicle of Black women activists that started out fighting for the women’s vote, a story that begins long before the recent historic efforts in Georgia. It is this overlooked history of dedication to progressing forward that today’s Black female organizers fighting for the vote recognize, build upon, and respect. It was evident in November and January, that the under-recognized work by Black women activists, past and present, opens doors and impacts people of all races and genders and will be the key in the continued fight for voting equality.
Sue Hadden and Terri Voepel-Lewis exemplify the new breed of activists who’ve come to the fore since 2016 when Republicans swept to victory in the US House, Senate, and presidency. Soon after Hillary’s defeat, Terri heard about Indivisible, the emerging national progressive organization that was utilizing Tea Party methods, proven so effective in previous elections.
A delegation from Ann Arbor’s Temple Beth Emeth traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s 2019 Consultation on Conscience. This 3-day conference attracted over 1,000 Jewish leaders from across the country and addressed social justice issues including immigration, criminal justice reform, gun violence, reproductive justice, and the rise of anti-Semitism and white supremacy.
“Never burn your bridges” is the paramount lesson Susan Prakken Smith has brought away from a lifetime of service to the nonpartisan League of Women Voters whose roots extend to the first Suffragist movement. The League of Women Voters, which now admits men, and Susan Prakken Smith have both seen much change since she began working with the organization in the early sixties.
Literary activist, Leslie McGraw, is a descendant of the first voter rights martyr in the United States, Elbert Williams of Tennessee. The right to vote was not given but earned through the blood, sweat, tears, and vigilance of families like that of Elbert Williams.
PEG interviewer, Laurie Williams, asked DePalma whether she would classify her activism as a hobby, job or life-calling. DePalma answered “For me, it’s a life calling. I wouldn’t feel okay if I weren’t doing this work; it’s very healing and energizing.” Read more to find out how she shares her healing and energy in Michigan as an activist!
Hedieh Briggs has gone from Iranian refugee to American citizen, to now that of a well-respected activist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a fighter and advocates for people to use one of their most powerful tools, “the vote”.
Melissa Bruzzano is a person filled with gentle strength, which underlies her activism. She has led marchers while chanting with a megaphone; hosted movies and discussion groups about Medicare for All; worked with other activists at the March for Medicare for All at the state capitol; helped with communications for local ACLU People Power actions to help protect immigrants at risk; worked as the first campaign manager for Anuja Rajendra’s Michigan Senate campaign; started and runs PAG, all while being a devoted mother and wife, an attorney, a songwriter, frontwoman (vocals and guitar) for the band Sweet Melissa, and a vocal coach.
Lori is the mother of a university student and triplets entering middle school. In addition to her very active involvement with her groups, Lori is a precinct delegate. When asked how she does it all, she responded: “We need to proselytize and deputize others to have things go out into the world. You need a dynamic person to get people to do things – not pushy, but dynamic. I’m blessed that I’ve got the energy to do what needs to be done.”
PEG’s own beloved Susan Ayer has been an activist her entire adult life. Read about her life, vision, and activism in this exclusive interview!