BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
The Equal Ground Education Fund (EGEF) is a non-partisan non-profit focused on building Black political power in Florida. Equal Ground’s “Take the Lead: A Black Political Leadership Training Series” was created to help Black community leaders expand political engagement within their local community and across the state.
During the last election cycle, Equal Ground worked across 22 counties to increase Black turnout through voter contact, via phones and texts, digital media, and “Souls to the Polls” events.
EGEF’s Managing Director Kristin Fulwylie shared, “We reached over 500,000 Black voters in the state and trained over 75 new Black leaders to organize, work on campaigns, and run for office.”
Their upcoming session, “The Florida Legislative Session Edition,” is being offered on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, Feb. 18, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.
The Florida Legislative session begins the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each odd-numbered year; in 2021, the Florida State Legislature is scheduled to convene on March 2 and adjourn on April 30.
The two-day leadership development training aims to increase political and civic engagement among Black folks across the state, especially as it relates to the legislative session.
Fulwylie shared that the training is striving to address the “glaring Black leadership gap” in the state. “There are only six Black Florida senators out of 40, and only 21 black Florida Representatives out of 120 — and there has never been a Black Governor in Florida’s history. There is much work to be done.”
Fulwylie noted that encouraging Black voters to expand their education on state government while informing them how they can lift up their “powerful voices” is vital now — especially in the fight to push back against current legislators writing laws that disproportionately and negatively impact Black and Brown people.
One such law, said Fulwylie, is Gov. Desantis’ newly proposed Anti-Protest Bill that would ultimately result in unfairly punishing Black Floridians for their participation in protests.
“This training is important because our communities need to be proactive and not reactive,” advised Fulwylie. “We do not want to be left out of why something has happened but, instead, learn how to participate in the process now, while it is happening.”
She also shared that while it will probably be a difficult session for passing any progressive legislation, there is still the need to advocate and bring awareness around issues that are important to Black and Brown communities.
“At the end of Take the Lead: A Black Political Leadership Training Series: The Florida Legislative Session Edition,” each attendee will receive a certificate of completion for five hours that can be used as volunteer hours, or participation in continuing education programs that may be offered by their employers.
The training is completely free, and residents living anywhere in Florida can participate. The program consists of two virtual training sessions; each training is 2.5 hours long.
Training topics will include:
Day 1: Legislative 101 – Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 6:30 – 9 p.m.
- What is the Legislative session?
- How bills are passed
- How to be involved and hold elected officials accountable
- Panel discussion: Working with your elected official
Day 2: What’s next? – Thursday, Feb. 18 from 6:30 – 9 p.m.
- 2021 priorities
- Panel discussion: Virtual organizing
- Next steps and actions
Attendees will also hear from state leadership on 2021 priorities and from current legislative aides on lobbying best practices. The trainers are local and state experts in their fields with Florida roots, ranging from lobbyists, aides, elected officials, and organizational and community leaders.
Fulwylie responded to the question of skepticism on the part of many Blacks who question our ability to really impact a “rigged” system.
“We understand that many people do not trust the process because they simply do not understand it, and our goal is to be sure people are educated and engaged. We know that there are systems in place to suppress our vote and voice. But we truly believe that an empowered community is an engaged community — and encourage community members to recognize their voice and power to combat the issues they have with the system.”
Fulwylie added that EGEF’s biggest challenge is in convincing people that change takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. She said it’s important to know that to see changes, residents and leaders need to stay involved and continue to vote for those who will fight for issues important to Black communities.
She also shared that there have been marked accomplishments in Black voters’ engagement: Black voter turnout increased by 12% in 2020, with an increase in the number of Black registered voters who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote in 2016.
To reach J.A. Jones, email firstname.lastname@example.org