consensus | kuh n-sen-suh s | majority of opinion
Voter education and mobilization group UpTheVote901 has announced it will host a People’s Convention April 27 to galvanize Memphians around consensus candidates for mayor and City Council in the Oct. 3 election.
Every Memphian is invited to join the grassroots, nonpartisan caucus aiming to create a progressive-issues platform called the People’s Agenda to be released April 4, Abyssinian Baptist Church Pastor Earle Fisher, Ph.D. told MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.
Fueled by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the “fierce urgency of now,” Fisher said Memphis can’t “expect political progress on the wings of inevitability.”
The convention goal is to mobilize a voter base of about 2,500 people under a community-oriented agenda that will serve as an accountability measure for candidates chosen at the convention.
UpTheVote901 seeks to “reclaim our democracy and increase voter participation by constructing and commanding a common policy framework to be implemented by candidates who represent the majority will of the citizenry.”
When asked if 2,500 people can make a difference in the municipal election, Fisher pointed to the 1991 election of Memphis’ first elected black mayor, Willie Herenton, the city’s last People’s Convention consensus candidate. The former schools superintendent beat incumbent Mayor Richard Hackett by 172 votes of about 250,000 votes cast.
That year, 65 percent of registered voters came to the polls and selected Herenton by 122,585 votes (49.45 percent) to Hackett’s 122,413 (49.38 percent). Perennial candidate Robert Hodges, a local eccentric, got 2,921 votes.
In 1991, Memphis, was 55 percent black. Today, the city is 63.9 percent black and is now the second-poorest large metro in the nation, according to Dr. Elena Delavega at the University of Memphis. Nearly 29 percent of blacks in Memphis live in poverty compared with 12.3 percent of whites who live in poverty here. The poverty rate for Latinos in Memphis is 33 percent, according to the 2018 Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet.
“Now do that math, and then think about how important 2,500 could be,” Fisher said.
The filing deadline for the Oct. 3 election is July 18. So far, likely contenders are Mike Williams, who ran in 2015, Lemichael Wilson, a relative unknown, and Herenton, according to The Memphis Flyer. Mayor Jim Strickland has announced his intention to seek a second term.
UpTheVote901 asks local civic and philanthropic organizations, churches, educational institutions and concerned citizens to help recruit, educate and register at least 2,500 people to attend the convention.
Those interested in partnering or seeking more information can email UPTheVote901@gmail.com and put “Memphis People’s Convention 2019” in the subject line.
UpTheVote901 will release the People’s Agenda on April 4 and host its convention at noon April 27 at black-owned Paradise Entertainment Center, 645 E. Georgia Ave.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation and Community Change.