With their roots stemming from the soil of Meadville, two groups of activists and organizers emerged to create a groundswell of community-wide mobilization for this year’s election.
Crawford County United and the newest branch of the NAACP Chapter of Meadville — called the Youth & College Committee — were formed.
These groups were, in large part, inspired by the November 2019 General Election, when Meadville City Council was met with two newly elected councilors, Larry McKnight and Autumn Vogel. This duo worked cooperatively with a coalition of local activists to campaign for issues such as fair housing, equitable governance and more green spaces.
“The election is not that far away, and I don’t wanna wake up on Nov. 4 and feel like I could’ve done more,” George Ackerman, ’21, said. “That’s like my worst fear.”
Along with being the external activism director for Students for Environmental Action on campus, Ackerman is the data team organizer and phone-banking lead for Crawford County United.
Every week Crawford County United has hosted events in a variety of ways to have a direct impact on local voters. These events are all virtual and are through phone-banking, text-banking and deep-canvassing. Every volunteer is trained on these methods, and the events are usually three hours at most, but sometimes it takes less time to get through a certain list of voters.
“I think now is the perfect time to get involved, there’s so much to do, and (CCU) has a lot of opportunities to talk to people who don’t necessarily agree (with your political opinion), and have deeper conversations,” Ackerman added.
Phone-banking is a method of reaching voters and collecting data by calling a list of registered voters, such as registered Democrats within a specific neighborhood, and having a light conversation to gauge whether or not they will be voting, for example. Another effort is called deep-canvassing, which is similar to phone-banking, but one would have a much more in-depth conversation with a voter. Text-banking requires less direct conversation with local voters, but still is an easy and effective way to reach people.
“It’s a real way to get involved, see the process and not just talk about doing stuff, but actually do the stuff,” Ackerman said.
Lindsey Scott was born and raised in Meadville, and along with being the program specialist at The ARC of Crawford County, she is a core organizer for CCU and currently manages the communications, and leads the text-banking sessions.
Recently, the group has solidified their mission statement as a grassroots volunteer organization that is building political power for multi-racial working-class families in Crawford County.
Scott added that these methods of voter outreach are important because “people can be persuaded, we just have to really try to talk about the big message, which will sway them to vote for progressive candidates.”
Scott states that her reason for helping form CCU, is to “appeal to (Elizabeth) Warren and Bernie (Sanders) supporters who felt left out of the (Joe Biden) platform, but also for the working class and working families. This is a fight about systemic racism and (for) solidarity.”
According to Scott, it is the day-to-day local policy that has the truest effect on voters. She added that for disaffected Donald Trump voters “this is the conversation that will solve that, the real policies that will actually help you.”
Crawford County is a historically Republican voting district, with the City of Meadville leaning far more Democratic than the outlying county.
“People have been left out of the process, and we need actual political education,” Scott said.
CCU already has a strong base of support and volunteers. Since their inception, their social media accounts have gained hundreds of followers, and over 75 people have attended their events and trainings. CCU sees new faces every week, and they have a dedicated core membership of 20-25 volunteers, according to Scott.
However, Ackerman and Scott made it clear that to win in November, everyone in Crawford County needs to participate, including the college.
“We want to bind the students with the community and create new ideas of engagement to get the students out to vote ASAP,” Scott said. “(Students) can go tomorrow to the courthouse, register to vote, request their ballot and could even vote right there at the courthouse.”
“Any issue you care about is reason enough to vote,” Scott said. “For me, it’s all about corruption. There’s no such thing as a fair election with how much money is involved. We have to hold (elected officials) responsible and people in power accountable. Our voting system and rights, and knowing the process of how things work, like school boards, that is how you make change.”
Joining CCU does not mean a volunteer is limited to only engaging voters. According to Scott, college students are also disenfranchised, and the group could use help with social media, content management and the promotion of proper voting information.
“We could have poll watching training for students, and have the students be a drive for youth voting,” Scott said. “It is so necessary.”
To contact CCU, their email is [email protected]. Students can contact Ackerman directly as well.
“A lot of people disregard the voices and input of young people,” Maria Rosado-Husband said. “I disagree with that. They are not fools, they understand what’s going on around them … I want them to use this as a platform and a voice, use the hell out of it. Use it and turn it into the future.”
Rosado-Husband is an active community organizer, and serves as the current chairperson of the NAACP Youth & College Committee.
The NAACP Youth & College Committee is a nonprofit and strictly non-partisan group that seeks to engage, educate and mobilize youth. The committee is a branch of the local NAACP Chapter of Meadville chaired by Drake Parker. The Youth & College Committee is set to have its first meeting on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 1 p.m. via Zoom.
Rosado-Husband and Don Goldstein, retired Allegheny economics professor and member of the local NAACP Chapter, helped create the group.
Neither Rosado-Husband nor Goldstein are considered to be youth or college-aged.
“We are looking for people who want to grow themselves and their leadership,” Rosado-Husband said. “(People) who want to fight for racial justice and are enthusiastic, motivated young people.”
“Me being a chair is just me being a facilitator,” Rosado-Husband said. “I really want to see the youth take the foundation we lay and build something beautiful and strong, that’ll last. Bring me your young people so that we can make beautiful things happen.”
As a former professor, Goldstein alluded to the diverse backgrounds and communities that Allegheny students come from, and acknowledged that there may be a bit of a shock factor when students of color come to Meadville for school. Students have a real opportunity to play an important role in local youth engagement and their leadership development, he added.
“There’s so much value in the exchange that’ll take place between (Allegheny) students and Meadville community kids,” Rosado-Husband said. “So many (Meadville kids) are not getting the direction or guidance they need in order to take that step to go to college. From my experience, (Allegheny students) are phenomenal, you’re my heroes. I think there’s just so much that, on a peer level, you guys can give these kids.”
Despite not having their first official meeting yet, the committee has organized a collaboration with the national Rock the Vote campaign, to ride in a bus around town on Saturday, Oct. 10. McKnight will drive the bus, and the tour is set to make stops at local schools and neighborhoods with all the materials, music and fun necessary to register to vote.
Simultaneously on Oct. 10, the committee is also planning an online event for voter education in coordination with CCU.
To join the Meadville Youth & College Committee NAACP Chapter #2271, there is both an online and paper registration, and to be a member, there is a one-time yearly fee. For youth — ages 20 and under — the cost of membership is $15 per year, and for those over 20 years old, the cost is $30 per year. The fees go to the national organization, but a percentage of funds are allocated to the local chapters. There are also scholarship funds available to help pay dues.
To join the first monthly meeting via Zoom on Oct. 3, the email address for the committee is [email protected], and their Facebook page is Youth & College Committee NAACP Chapter #2271.