By Public Narrative President Jhmira Alexander
Between a global pandemic, widespread civil unrest and an economic crisis, the shocking events of 2020 have left many of us seeking stability as Election Day approaches. With so many reasons to vote, one family is focusing on the civic engagement process, not the politics.
Shirley Williams, mother of six and grandmother of 13, inspires her family to do better and be better. The Williams family is well accustomed to gathering to celebrate life and death. Of all their many celebrations, recently they met (via Zoom, of course) as a family, for democracy. In fact, the gathering was called, Family for Democracy. Family for Democracy focused on the importance of voting. Participants included 80 relatives residing in Illinois, and others residing in as many as 13 states including New York, California, Utah, North Carolina, Washington, Indiana, Georgia and Nevada.
To gauge the family’s understanding of the election process, the meeting began with election trivia coordinated by professor of political science at Kennedy King College, Ted Williams. Panelists included husband and wife attorneys Louis and Lauren Raymond of Cook County, who offered guidance on registering to vote, mail-in and in-person (early) voting.
Retired federal employee Rozette Cary of Las Vegas spoke on the urgency of now. “The baby boomers and the generation before it, we were the ones that fought to get the right to vote. So that you could walk into a restaurant and eat and sit where you want to sit, so you can drink at any public water fountain,” said Rozette. “Those are the types of things we fought for through peaceful protest. Now that whole system has changed. And it’s systemic now. So as millennials and younger generations, you have to fight so that now you can get financing from the bank and build those houses. That’s the kind of stuff you guys have to do. And your vote counts! The vote is your power. Use it wisely.”
The democracy-focused family Zoom meeting started as the vision of Brenda Williams, founder of MyGPS, a personal branding program which leads participants on a course of self discovery through leadership development. Williams and her family are encouraging families to go beyond the barbecues and the picnics, and develop a family plan for participating in the coming election.
“As I was reflecting on what really makes this remarkable, it came to me that, hey, you know what, this is a family that definitely knows how to party. But this is not a Christmas Eve party, this is not a wedding. Thank God it is not a funeral. But we have all come together because we understand that there is a compelling call to action in this moment for all of us. The power of change lives under your roof,” said Williams.
Sherman Williams of New York, an investor, financial expert, and a millennial, says he donates to and makes calls on behalf of his candidate of choice.
The Williams family discussed the various ways more able-bodied relatives would support relatives with physical or medical limitations to submitting their ballots. For example, millennials would partner with boomers to make certain their ballots were mailed on time.
Regardless of size, don’t underestimate the power you and your family possess.
If you’ve found yourself reflecting on the uncertainty of the times, remember that you do have a say in who will be president from 2021 and 2025. You can vote, and do what you can to safely mobilize those around you to do it as well—whether that’s your family or your chosen family. There has never been a more crucial time to do it.
Below are some websites the Williams family found helpful in preparing their family voting plan:
Other sites to inform your family’s voting plan here in Illinois may include:
- Forefront’s Library Guide complete with resources, links and materials on all things GOTV: https://library.myforefront.org/civic-engagement/gotv
- Illinois Online Voter Application: https://ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx
- Chicago Board of Election Commissioners: https://chicagoelections.gov/en/home.html