WASHINGTON, DC—The Dr. N. Joyce Payne Center for Social Justice launched its HBCU Researcher Spotlight series on Wednesday with a roundtable discussion on voting rights with Dr. Ben Yisrael and Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan.
The discussion centered on Dr. Yisrael’s recent report, Incarcerating Democracy, which studies new voter suppression laws in states such as Texas, as well as Senator McClellan’s work on voting rights legislation in Virginia.
The Payne Center’s new series spotlights the important policy research of academics at HBCUs across the country. These findings are contextualized and explored through discussions and events with policymakers, advocates, and community leaders. In the very first spotlight, Dr. Ben Yisrael of Texas Southern University’s Center for Justice Research shares the findings of his research on both long standing barriers to voting that disenfranchise people of color and new laws that seek to suppress the votes of Black and Brown voters.
“[Voter suppression] is nothing of the past. It’s something that is not only continuing but is actually increasing,” said Dr. Yisrael. “This last presidential election, we saw more than ever a legal backlash towards progress and an outright attempt to undermine the legitimacy of an election and what is supposed to be an open democracy. We have to show people that this is not something from the 1800s, this is not something from the 1960s. This is something that is happening now and we’ve got to continue to be vigilant in our efforts to defend democracy.”
“We have seen a cycle throughout history. Every time Black people and marginalized communities gain social, political, and economic power there’s been a backlash that’s included disenfranchisement,” said Senator McClellan. “It’s important to remember that democracy is not a state, it’s an action that requires each generation to do it’s part. And part of that is telling those stories, because it is a cycle. We have to remind people who were born after Jim Crow ended that it still has an impact on communities today.”
The full discussion is available to watch here. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund created the Dr. N. Joyce Payne Center for Social Justice to serve as a nexus in advancing social justice for Black Americans.
The Payne Center is a national think tank and research center rooted in the African American community that draws together top HBCU scholars, national thought leaders, community advocates, and on-the-ground solution-makers. Together, we identify, evaluate, and scale new evidenced-based programs and policies designed to create sustainable, positive change to the fabric of Black life in American society.