On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we brought together dozens of incredible artistic activism minds, and we came up with over a hundred ideas, like the ones above, about how to get the U.S. press to cover the need to protect our freedom to vote. 

Imagine you’re watching the news and an anchor is outside to give a weather report. And as she’s talking about a snowstorm that’s on its way, dozens of people rush the frame, wearing neon purple and holding banners that read “Protect Our Vote.” Or one person walks across dressed exactly like the weatherperson, holding a sign that says, “Cold front moving from Washington DC to your polling place.” Or another starts reading from Green Eggs and Ham, filibustering the anchor out of the news.

The push to protect voters at the national level may not have gone the way we hoped this week–but we don’t despair, and we don’t desist. As the head of Indivisible wrote in an email after the Senate did not vote in support of the Freedom to Vote Act, “we started this campaign with people laughing at us for talking about the filibuster…. What was a sideshow four years ago became a main event tonight. This happened because you demanded it.” And we’re not done demanding protections be put in place so that everyone can vote safely and that every vote counts, and that the press keeps talking about it.

Why is it still important for the press to cover this now? Because when our elected officials don’t act in the ways we want them to, we can make sure they know that and see that when they read their local paper or turn on the news. Because when the press decides legislation is doomed and covers the political horse race more than the country-saving, life-saving issues at hand, we can make them refocus the conversation on what will actually motivate change, instead of apathy, disengagement, and disgust. And, as our friend at the ACLU reminded us, when legislation fails, it doesn’t mean it’s dead forever:

Civil rights legislation, and voting rights legislation specifically, has always been a painstaking dance of a few steps forward and at least one step back. Martin Luther King Jr. himself stated in 1963, two years before the Voting Rights Act was passed, that “I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting.”

The Voting Rights Act was, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act/Freedom To Vote Act will be, hard-won legislation.  We have not seen the end of this legislation, we have not necessarily even seen the end of this legislation in this legislative session. The work of Unstoppable Voters has and will continue to not only help advance this legislation, but also mitigate the harm of the policies this legislation seeks to remedy:

  • You are injecting essential joy into the movement and energizing activists and policy makers.
  • You are building momentum for voting and broader civic participation.
  • You are changing our culture of citizenry, making it fun, inspiring, and accessible.
  • You are the future our country and our democracy needs to survive and thrive.

So, here are a couple takeaways from our meeting, about how to get on the news and milk it for all its worth:

  • Show up where they already are: go to sporting events, weather remotes, awards shows
  • Make the most of a microphone: speak at a local government meeting, wear something unexpected, and share testimony that is surprising
  • Get your bullet points ready to go: have your soundbites down and practice delivering them in character (if you’re playing one)–but consider breaking out of character to make a point “pop” at the end. 

Take these and run, and then tell us how it went. Or we’ll just see it on the news.