Grassroots groups savor electoral victories

Several grassroots groups organized the “Count on Us” voting rights rally in front of City Hall last Saturday, Nov. 7, to not only celebrate their hard work in this elections, but to also celebrate President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Deirdre O’Leary, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Hundreds of supporters gathered on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 7, in front of City Hall for a rally following the announcement that Vice President Joe Biden is now President-elect Joe Biden. With enough electoral college votes to defeat Trump, the originally scheduled “Count on Us” voting rights rally evolved into a celebration of democracy.

Several grassroots groups organized the event, including the Community Development and Training Center (CDAT), Organize Florida, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) and Bay Area Dream Defenders.

The event was one of many around the country, coordinated to support voting rights as state by state results continued to come in following the Nov. 3 election.  Volunteers handed out t-shirts, watch caps and masks with the phrase “Voters Decide.”

Jabaar Edmond, senior program director for CDAT, said the group worked tirelessly to register voters and ran “get out the vote” efforts this election season.  They were also part of the local COVID relief, handing out thousands of masks and hand sanitizers through Atwater’s Cafe and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

CDAT also worked on increasing census forms to help direct more federal funds to the community.  Edmond thanked the FRRC and Organize Florida, who, along with CDAT, registered 2,000 voters.  Biden’s margin of victory in Pinellas County was 1,200 votes.

“We have to keep working. Stay engaged,” Edmond told the crowd.

Since the passage of Florida Amendment 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative in 2018, Edmond became eligible to vote, just in time to help elect his wife, Caprice Edmond, to the Pinellas County School Board.

Ashley Green of Bay Area Dream Defenders was cautiously optimistic.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in this country and community, but for just a moment, we can be happy that an outright textbook fascist is no longer at the head of this country’s government.”

Green urged attendees to work in the upcoming Georgia senate runoff elections so that Democrats will control both chambers of Congress.

Michele Rayner, newly elected to the Florida House of Representatives, was jubilant: “This is what happens when the people win — when they take what is rightfully theirs.  We need to clap for Joe and Kamala, but we also need to clap for ourselves.”

Richie Floyd from Fight for 15 spoke about the Amendment 2 victory, raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2026.  “We will make sure that working people’s issues are front and center from now on.”

Amy Weintraub of Progress Florida also addressed the crowd. “What a great day to be an American; what a great day to be a woman in America. Those who work in social justice fields have worked so hard.  Who won today?  Those who stand on the side of love, of women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, and for mother earth.  We all won today.”

Brother John Muhammad of CDAT and Organize Florida called himself a “super voter,” having voted in every election since he became eligible.  He credited Edmond with encouraging him to become active in the Childs Park Civic Association back in 2012.

Muhammad praised the teams of returning citizens who knocked on 30,000 doors in Pinellas County.  “You cannot win without the Black vote. And now we as citizens have a responsibility to present our ideas to those who were elected. They call it co-governance.”

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