By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Individuals riding in new and COVID-safe tour buses would hit swing states ahead of the November elections to register and mobilize GOTV for 10 million new Black voters. (Pictured from left to right: Jackie L. Hampton, NNPA National Secretary and Publisher of the Mississippi Link; Attorney Daryl Jones, Board Chair of the Transformative Justice Coalition; Attorney Barbara Arnwine, the founder, and president of the Transformative Justice Coalition; Fran Farrer, NNPA Second Vice Chair and Publisher of the County News; Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., NNPA President and CEO; Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Board Chair and President of the Houston Forward Times; Cheryl Smith, NNPA National Treasurer and Publisher of the Texas Metro News; Janis Ware, NNPA Vice Chair and Publisher of the Atlanta Voice (NNPA photo credit)

Ahead of the all-important 2022 midterm elections, reports show that more than 55 million Americans remain unregistered to vote — and about 10 million are African Americans who are eligible to vote but who are unregistered.

Whether the reason is apathy, suppression, or something else, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the Transformative Justice Coalition seek to get to the bottom of why, with so much at stake, voter registration and get-out-the-vote mobilization remain notably lacking among Black Americans across the nation.

During the national convention marking the 195th anniversary celebration of the Black Press of America in New Orleans last week, leaders of both organizations announced a get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at registering and mobilizing 10 million more African Americans to vote in time for the 2022 midterms.

One of the NNPA convention’s most meaningful events was the Awards Presentation on Thursday, June 23rd. Dr. Frances “Toni “Draper was the recipient of the Publisher of the Year award. Dr. Draper is the Publisher of the Afro American Newspaper in Washington D.C., now celebrating its 130 anniversary. William Smothers, Publisher of Speakin’Out News in Huntsville, Alabama, was a finalist. Speakin’Out News is now celebrating its 42nd anniversary.

“The NNPA has talked about the vote, and there is no better time for us to show our power,” NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards said during the announcement at the national convention in the Big Easy.

“Let us take the lead and not be on the tail end so we can show the present-day power of the Black Press,” said Richards, who publishes the Houston Forward Times.

“This is a great opportunity for us. We’ve got to make this happen,” attorney Barbara Arnwine, founder and president of the Transformative Justice Coalition, told a panel at the convention. She and the coalition’s board chair and fellow lawyer Daryl Jones said their organization had recorded 72 voter suppression tactics to prevent a large population from casting ballots.

Among them are strict voter laws in many Republican-led states, deceptive practices like robocalls, early voting cuts and voter intimidation.

“Black voters did our share in 2020,” Arnwine said. “Ninety-three percent of all eligible Black voters registered in Georgia. Yet, in the 2021 Georgia Senate run-off, 93% of all registered Black voters turned out. That’s why people don’t understand where the real power is.”

Along with NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., Richards, NNPA Executive Board members Janis Ware, Fran Farrer, Cheryl Smith, and Jackie Hampton, Arnwine and Jones announced that the groups would utilize a multi-vehicle “voter-cade” to get out the vote.

They said individuals riding in new and COVID-safe tour buses would hit swing states ahead of the November elections to register and mobilize GOTV for 10 million new Black voters.

(L-R): NNPA Convention Chair Terry Jones, Publisher, Data News, New Orleans, Louisiana, Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Board Chair and President of the Houston Forward Times; American singer and songwriter Stephanie Mills; Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., NNPA President and CEO; and Stacy M. Brown, NNPA senior journalist.

Chavis said artists from Roc Nation, the company run by hip-hop magnate and business mogul Jay-Z, would accompany the votercade in some cities.

Music superstar Stephanie Mills also pledged to “get on the bus with the Black Press and the Transformative Justice Coalition.”

Chavis said he’s convinced other celebrities will also join the national GOTV campaign.

“The first form of voter suppression is self-suppression,” Chavis said.

“This last primary election showed that some of us were keeping ourselves from voting. There are 55 million unregistered Americans eligible to vote, and 10 million are African Americans,” Chavis continued.

“What if those 10 million were registered? We wouldn’t have worried about Donald Trump or the craziness of what the U.S. Supreme Court is doing now. Elections have consequences. The overturned Roe v. Wade, the overturned gun laws — are consequences of elections.”

With more than 235 African American-owned newspapers and media companies as members, the NNPA represents the Black Press of America.

The Transformative Justice Coalition’s mission includes systematic change that achieves racial justice, gender, economic and social justice, and human rights through public education and engagement initiatives that attend equally to hearts and minds as well as the social systems and structure in which they exist.

Further, the coalition dedicates itself to informed civic engagement and equal voting rights for everyone.

They use a voting rights map of shame to inform the public of threats to America’s democracy, how to protect their voting rights, and steps to ensure the ability to cast a ballot and make sure it’s counted.

The organization also seeks the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.

“[Anti-voting rights organizations and individuals] have trained 10,000 people to be poll disrupters to go to only Black polling sites,” Arnwine declared.

“They’re not sending them to white polling sites, and if you watched the [Jan. 6] hearings, this is a concentrated effort to disempower Black voters,” she said.

According to Davis, more than 18 million people are eligible to vote but don’t know it.

“They are the felony-disenfranchised,” Davis said. “They are confused. It’s intentionally done in various states. For example, in some states, you never lose your right to vote, and in some states, you can run for office if you’re incarcerated.”

The voter-cade would help educate voters and explain what’s legal, among other things. “We’re calling on all 235 NNPA members,” Chavis said. “That call and response from our brothers and sisters are vital. It’s movement time, it is time to get out the vote.

“With the Transformative Justice Coalition, the NNPA will help move our people forward to get out this vote. In 2022, we will make the critical difference in the midterm elections in terms of increasing Black voter participation throughout the country.”