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A Not So Basic Visit to Enforce Voter Registration

United States citizens have always emphasized the importance of voting, but with this year’s election rearing its head – in the midst of social distancing - people are making creative efforts to ensure Americans be the change they wish to see in their country, as well as their state.

As always, celebrities are using their platforms to influence their followers and constantly reiterate the fact that each vote matters. But Aurora James, founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, Mia Moretti, artist and DJ, and Andre Holland, actor and producer, are confronting and educating their followers face to face.

James and Moretti have been traveling across the state of Alabama to canvas and help people exercise their rights to vote on the state, as well as national level.

“Obviously it’s a different time right now because of quarantine and because of COVID, that we noticed such a drop in the energy of campaigning in general,” Moretti said. “So, although door-to-door canvasing isn’t happening like it used to happen we thought that there were still ways to show that the energy didn’t die, and that we did not give up hope; [that] we still believe in this country.”

The influencers have visited cities such as Prattville and Montgomery, and on Sunday Oct. 4, they made their way to Birmingham. From 12 pm until 3 pm they hosted a voter registration event at Basic., a clothing shop located on Morris Avenue in conjunction with Holland, brand strategist and style enthusiast Randall Porter, and the owner of Basic., Lacey Woodroof.

“The goal…[was] to number one, register people to vote and number two, just for general voter awareness: does everyone know where their polling station is? Can we help you identify a ride if you need one? Do you have questions about the candidates,” Woodroof stated. “We’re just legitimately here to encourage voting…and then also to help anyone that has any questions about what they think or if they’re confused on who they’re going to vote for.”

Using Your Platform

When people think of influencers, celebrities, or designers being a part of something of this caliber, they’re expecting them to have a special event that they’re attending said James, or in her case her friends thought she was helping with the presidential campaign.

“I’m just going by myself [without her personal team] and we’re going to figure it out when we get there, and we’re going door to door and [canvasing]; just do what anyone would do,” James added.

“More than anything I just kind of want to urge people to just do the same. You don’t need a crazy plan, your plan is just going out and getting out into the town and talking to people, and trying to get people to register to vote because for a long time there’s more people voting…for American Idol than we’re voting in the election and in order to preserve a democracy we need to make sure that everyone votes,” James said.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of voting for the presidency, James and Moretti have been stressing the importance of voting for the state senate. Moretti said having a democratic senator such as Doug Jones in Alabama is incredible, and they wanted to support that.

The senate has power that will last longer than the next four years Moretti said, so voting for a democratic senator means “changing the face of our supreme court for potentially 20 years.”

“We also really wanted to show people across the country…even though there are small followings that I have, or that any of us have here – it still counts for something and if people can see on my Instagram…that I took a weekend out of my life to go to a state and canvas for a senator, that isn’t from my state, I have that compassion for our country,” Moretti said. “And [people] can see that they can also canvas in their neighborhood. They don’t need to drive to another state, drive to another city…they can put together an event like this in their neighborhoods at their local stores.”

“We do not have any resource that anyone else doesn’t have…anyone can do this whether it’s their front yard, their courtyard, a business that they shop at…I wanted to encourage people to not forget about what they believe in and not forget their own power and what they can do - their potential,” Moretti added.

For Holland, their efforts hit home. “I’m from Birmingham, from Bessemer to be exact,” he said. He added that when his mother was in college, she was involved in voter education, so involved that she worked alongside John Lewis on the Voter Education Project - an organization that raised and distributed foundation funds to civil rights organizations for voter education and registration work in the southern United States.

“We grew up steeped in the importance of voting and civic involvement,” Holland said. “It’s a part of our civic duty. Obviously so many people have struggled for us to have this right, I think this is probably the most important election of my lifetime – and of our lifetimes. And I think, as a lot of people are saying, we’re going to fight for the soul of the country. So, if we don’t turn up and turn out, we don’t have a chance of winning this thing. So it’s incredibly important for our lives and also for the lives of our children.”

A Red State, a Blue County

The voter registration event not only showed the importance of voting, but it also revealed the progression happening in The Magic City.

Porter said that’s what he wanted to show people, “that people in Birmingham they’re doing [things] and we’re making people vote…Jefferson County is a blue county, and we can make a lot of waves and we can do a lot of things if we get together and do it. And I guess it takes people with big names to get people up.”

“It’s really about how do you support the young leaders and the progressive people that are in the state that are actively working every single day to make a difference because ultimately it’s not how people react in times of crisis that’s most important, it’s how people react when things are a little bit more calm,” said James. “And I think that there’s people in this city and all across the state that are actively working towards a more progressive Alabama.”

Basic., Botanica Plant Shop, Magic City Organics, and Yellowhammer Creative have been hosting voter registration drives in Birmingham every Saturday for the last few months and will continue to do so to keep the momentum moving forward.

“There are good people here and I think the south is too quickly thrown under the bus for a lot of things but there’s a lot of people here trying to make a difference for the best and for the better,” said Maggie Woodroof, co-owner of Basic. “So, I’m excited to do that and meet people that have the same likeminded views, and that are kind of going the same way we are – we want to see Alabama change.”

Absentee voting is now open in Alabama. If your reason for voting absentee is due to concerns of contracting or spreading COVID-19, check the box that says. “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls,” on your application. The absentee application deadline is Oct. 29, and the deadline to hand-deliver your absentee ballot is Nov. 2

If you or someone you know have been impacted by a felony visit

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 19, and polls open Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST



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