Tampa Bay Black Media Coalition hosts voting initiative this Saturday at 4 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Black Media Coalition will host its Voter Awareness Campaign Kickoff on multiple media outlets this Saturday at 4 p.m.

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

TAMPA BAY — This Saturday, Sept. 26, at 4 p.m., the Tampa Bay Black Media Coalition will host its Voter Awareness Campaign Kickoff on multiple media outlets. The event will feature guests including Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Dr. Idelia Phillips, president of the Hillsborough County League of Women Voters and League Vice President Angela Birdsong, Rev. Dr. Manuel Sykes and others.

The Tampa Bay Black Media Coalition began in June of 2019 when Bro. John Muhammad and Jabaar Edmond of the Tampa Bay Breakfast Club called members of Pinellas’ Black media outlets to discuss various issues related to control of our media narrative.

The group met throughout the year to discuss various ways to join forces and deal with issues plaguing Black Tampa Bay. This Saturday’s Voter Awareness forum is the inaugural event for the coalition. Members of the coalition sponsoring this Saturday’s event include the Breakfast Club, Power Plug Radio, WTMP 1150, 99 Jams WUJM, the St. Pete Bulletin, The Power Broker magazine, 1Love Magazine, and The Weekly Challenger.

Earlier this week, the coalition held its own voter education panel with Hillsborough Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Phillips, Birdsong, and Norin Dollard, chair of the Public Service and Education Subcommittee of the Hillsborough County Complete Count project.

Phillips suggested adding the census to the discussion of the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election since the cutoff date was moved back to Sept. 30.

“Because the census has been cut short, we only have to the month, so this is urgent right now for us to get people counted.  Of course, we know the importance — because it affects how many elected officials we have, our roadways, and things like Head Start.”

Phillips noted it was often the things that impact Black children that are historically undercounted in census numbers.

She added that Black people often don’t participate in the census due to fear that their information is not confidential.

“We spend a lot of time in the community trying to help people understand that their information is confidential and that the enumeration is so very important, particularly to communities of color.”

Dollard noted that census agents have to take an oath not to disclose these data. The Census.gov site states, “Under federal law, the penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of not more than $250,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years or both.”

Dollard explained that the census is vitally important because of the huge amount of money that comes into Florida from the Federal Government based on census numbers.

“Forty-four billion dollars in federal money comes to Florida based on the census count. Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition, childcare – even emergency response planning is based on it,” she said.

Stressing that nearly every vital service we need is impacted by the census, Dollard added, “In fact, for every person that we miss (in the census) we lose $1,000 per person per year — or $10,000 between now and the next time we do a census in 2030.”

Both women referred to the importance of children and babies being counted as well.

The other vital reason to fill out the census is that Florida’s congressional seats are based on the census numbers. And not only in Washington, D.C., but, said Dollard, “Our school districts and county commission seats are all divvied up, based on the census count and population change, so in so many ways, it’s critical. And the fact is there are only seven days remaining to do it.”

Currently, Pinellas is at a 66.3 response rate, while Hillsborough is at 65.2. If you have yet to take the 2020 Census, click here to start the short process.

Regarding the upcoming General Election, Phillips relayed, “You know, when we talk about voting, one of the questions that we ask the audience is: ‘Do you really think democracy can work if you don’t vote?’ And we get a number of interesting responses. But the thing that the League has used for the last two years is ‘defending Democracy and empowering voters.’ Because a lot of times, our audience members do not understand that the vote is very powerful.”

Phillips observed that communities with low voter turnout don’t realize that their complaints to legislators about street lighting, housing, and Social Security may not be taken seriously because there’s no power in that community. She noted that U.S. voting numbers haven’t improved over the years; in fact, there’s been a decrease since the ’60s. The 1968 election was the last time the U.S. voting numbers reached 60 percent.

“So, if we can help people understand how powerful the vote is, I think more people will decide to vote.”

You can be a part of the Tampa Bay Black Media Coalition’s Voter Awareness campaign kickoff by tuning in on any of these media platforms this Saturday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. to hear the conversation with FRRC’s Desmond Meade and others:

WTMP 1150 AM: http://am1150wtmp.com/

99 Jams WUJM “The Burg,” 99.1FM,  https://www.99jamstheburg.com/

Tampa Bay Breakfast Club, https://www.facebook.com/TampaBayBreakfastClub/

Power Plug Radio – https://www.facebook.com/powerplugradio

The Bulletin News – https://www.facebook.com/thebulletinnews

The Weekly Challenger – https://www.facebook.com/TheWeeklyChallengerNewspaper

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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