A two-year-old political group is pushing a national text-messaging initiative to ensure 3.1 million registered Black voters cast ballots by Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The Collective PAC wants to use a faster and more efficient way to reach Black voters in 12 states through their cellphones, especially in states where 35 Black candidates are running for federal and state offices. More specifically, voters who reside in states with Black candidates engrossed in high-profile elections.
“We’ve got to be everywhere fighting for what’s right for everyone. The only way to do that is through politics,” said Quentin James, who co-founded the Collective PAC with his wife, Stefanie Brown James. “Now that money is free speech, our votes are important but our dollars matter just as much right now. We’ve got to make sure we’re also raising the money to support folks, too.”
The Collective held a fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 27 at Mesa 14 restaurant in Northwest for donors that not only support candidates such as the Blacks running for governor – Ben Jealous (Maryland), Stacey Abrams (Georgia) and Andrew Gillum (Florida) – but to launch its “peer-to-peer” text messaging initiative.
A group known as The Hustle, with an office in the District but headquartered in San Francisco, organized an app people can download through cellphones. Once set up, messages will send updates on various candidates, early voting and other information relevant to this year’s election.
“It will send 1,000 text messages in 25 minutes,” Emma Akpan, client services manager for Hustle, said to the dozens at Mesa 14. “We’re going to try and get as many voters out as possible.”
Besides the James’s setting up the event in Northwest to push its initiative as part of its “Final Push Tour,” the couple, who reside in Cleveland, also met up with fellow Howard University alums as part of the school’s homecoming festivities last weekend.
The Collective had a major supporter speak on its behalf: Emmy award winning actress Regina King.
King said during a brief interview that she backs the organization because it also teaches and inspires Blacks to seek political office.
“I became involved with The Collective after seeing how many Black candidates there are that many people don’t know even exist,” she said. “We’ve got to arm them with the tools they need to be a successful candidate.”
The Collective credits itself for helping 28 Black candidates win various offices including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California), Lt. Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The Collective launched in August 2016 marking the last year of President Barack Obama’s presidency and forging a new way to connect with voters and continue efforts into American politics. Stefanie Brown James worked as a former Obama campaign aide and Quentin James worked on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s political action committee two years ago.
Although the group, which has a consortium of other organizations that help train, recruit and fund Black candidates nationwide, it typically doesn’t endorse candidates in races where several run in one contest.
Quentin James briefly explained there’s a strict endorsement process for perspective candidates.
They must first pass a questionnaire.
Then, a candidate will be assessed on who’s running a particular campaign, opponents and chances to win.
In addition, those who support The Collective are allowed to state whether to support a particular candidate.
“We have a quarterly endorsement survey that everyone who has given money to us whether it’s a dollar or $5,000 gets an equal say on who we endorse,” Quentin James said.
Back at the restaurant, Russell Drake stood out as one of the few men in attendance.
“The Collective PAC is just not saying, ‘Give me money.’ It is educating you,” said Drake, a Howard alum and first vice president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida. “With the support of the Collective PAC and Black caucus, [they] helped reached unlikely voters for Andrew [Gillum]. I don’t celebrate until the work is done.”
King also noticed very few men. She offered some advice to not only vote, but encourage men to become involved in the political process.
“Look around. What we see are majority women,” she said. “Black women, we show up. If you have brothers, if you have husbands [or] significant others [and] the men who are here: Encourage them to show up. You know what language to use to motivate folks. It’s important to show up and show out.”