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Philanthropy Thought Leadership

Our Unfinished Democracy : SPLC Awards Over $11 million to 55 Civic Groups across Deep South as Part of Its Vote Your Voice Initiative

By Katrina DeBerry, program officer, thriving communities, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

As Americans, we believe in the ideals of fairness and equality for our families and ourselves. Unfortunately, the struggle has always been about whether we feel those same ideals apply to our neighbors. We wrestle between, ‘I should have the right to live a life of my own choosing,’ and, ‘you can live a life of your own choosing, so long as it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.’ This is the ugly side of the democratic process – the false narrative that only a chosen few should decide what’s best for all of us. The reality is that we all have a right to be a part of the decision-making process. We shape that as we go, with the collective decisions we make, with the barriers we tear down and with the people we encourage to stand in their power. This democratic ideal is constantly forcing us, all of us, to move the lines of discomfort so that everyone has the right to self-determination. That work is constant, and brutal and beautiful. 

“The work to build a multiracial democracy where everyone is represented and has a say can’t just happen in the months before an election,” said Margaret Huang, CEO and President of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “This work must be sustained year-round, every year, so that we can have equitable participation and representation in our democratic systems — especially with the newly passed state laws that will make voter registration and voting more difficult. On April 29, the SPLC and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta announced its third round of Vote Your Voice grants. These grants provide multi-year grants to 55 organizations of all sizes across the Deep South will support that vital democracy-building work.” 

What unites these 55 organizations, primarily led by people of color, is their unwavering commitment to activating communities of color, LGBTQ communities, Native communities, immigrant communities, communities of faith, returning citizens and young people in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Examples of grants to Georgia organizations include:

  • Center for Pan Asian Community Services is building on its network as a service provider to Atlanta’s Asian American population to encourage voter participation through multilingual outreach that will include information at service sites, phone banking, texting, social media outreach, events and bus tours. 
  • The Arc of Georgia promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supports their full inclusion and participation in community. The group works to build a coalition of disability advocates who utilize existing relationships and education of the legislative process to influence reforms for increased and improved ballot access in rural Georgia. 
  • VotER’s goal for this project is to expand the universe of healthcare institutions and healthcare providers in Georgia and Florida who engage their staff and patients in voter readiness. Utilizing the establishment of partnerships with various healthcare institutions, VotER meets people where they are and gives them the tools and information needed to be a part of deciding who represents their communities. 

Since the initiative’s announcement in June 2020, $23,330,000 has been distributed throughout the five states. Vote Your Voice is an initiative between the SPLC and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to invest up to $30 million through 2022 from the SPLC’s endowment. This investment seeks to engage voters and increase voter registration, education and participation; support Black- and brown-led organizations often ignored by traditional funders; support and prototype effective voter engagement strategies; and re-enfranchise returning citizens despite intentional bureaucratic challenges.

Our democracy does not thrive when a select few make decisions for the many. It thrives when everyone has the chance to participate, and be heard. This investment in communities and in people is what gets us closer to that true democratic ideal.

Grant recipients from Georgia in this round are:

Multi-state organizations that will be working in Georgia include:

Additional Vote Your Voice information and previous grantees in the three previous rounds may be found here: https://www.splcenter.org/vote-your-voice.

Photo courtesy of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, a Vote Your Voice grant recipient.

This is sponsored content.

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