By Selene Raj
Organizers from several non-profit organizations say they were met with resistance about holding a Rock the Vote event in the city of Coral Springs and have decided to move the event to Coconut Creek instead.
The event was announced earlier this week.
The 2020 election has inspired record-breaking early voting turnout, and local organizations had hoped to continue the momentum through the final week, especially in Coral Springs.
Broward Rock the Vote, hosted by the Broward Young Black Progressives in partnership with Chainless Change, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Broward Young Democrats, and Ruth’s List, aim to boost turnout, especially among 18-year-old to 45-year-old Black and brown first-time voters.
Coral Springs resident Amber Vaughan, 38, a Ruth’s List board member and president of the Broward Young Black Progressives, organized the event.
Part of the motivation was the voter suppression communities of color face every election. They wanted to give people a reason to turn out and a place to make them feel welcomed and safe while they cast their ballots.
Organizers said they heard some unfortunate things coming out of Coral Springs from communities of color and worried that the atmosphere might feel unsafe for Black people, even in their own polling station.
“We knew we wanted to play a part in helping to turn out the Black vote in Broward County,” she said.
Vaughan said this election is not only about the president, but it will also decide the fate of our schools as well as who serves as a judge, who oversees the Sheriff’s Department and their billion-dollar budget, who oversees future elections, and who prosecutes criminal cases.
“Getting people mobilized is so important,” she said, “Things that directly impact us are on the ballot, and voting is our opportunity to have a say in what goes on in our country and communities.”
Coral Springs City Commissioner Joshua Simmons hoped people would see the excitement, want to come to check out what’s going on, and then feel encouraged to vote.
“This is about all communities exercising their right to vote. We want voting to be seen as something fun, positive, and engaging,” he said.
While all the parties involved had hoped to have the event in Coral Springs, they said that county officials were discouraging about doing it in the city, and they felt pressured to move it elsewhere.
Vaughan said the county cited Covid, parking, and a potential clash with opposing parties.
She said that it was meant to be a pop-up, a way to boost morale and that social distancing was part of the plan, and that the event would have taken up five parking spots at most to accommodate for the two food trucks they planned to have at both ends of the library.
As far as a clash, it was the opposite of what the groups were looking for– instead, they wanted to boost morale and make everyone feel safe while voting.
“If this event would heighten tensions [in the city], I don’t want to do it,” she said, “Our duty is to the people.”
She said she is disappointed that they couldn’t do the event in Coral Springs and wishes the city would have done more to work with them, but she is still looking forward to holding it elsewhere.
“Above all else, the focus is keeping voters safe,” she said.
Marq Mitchell, Chainless Change founder, expressed similar disappointed and simultaneous optimism that the event would succeed elsewhere.
Mitchell said it was his organization’s first time trying to plan anything in Coral Springs and wasn’t a great experience.
“We’ll probably shy away from making any efforts in Coral Springs for a while,” Mitchell said.
He said it was frustrating and discouraging to see the extent to which the city would go through to prevent certain types of voters from coming out.
“I was surprised. We were all surprised by what our experience was,” said Mitchell, “but [we] hope to have a successful event over in Coconut Creek.”
There was more embrace by the city of Coconut Creek, they said, and have secured a location at the college library– where Presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden had an event on October 29.
The event will go on, and live entertainment will still include performances and music by J. Howard and DJ Lucian White. Free food will be provided by April Eats and Detroit Style Pizza, where they plan to feed over 300 voters.
Participating organizations also plan to create first-time voter engagement to follow-up for future elections and events, workshops, and voter education sessions.
The event is free and open to the public. It will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Halloween, Saturday, October 31. Its new location is the Broward College, North Regional Library, located at 1100 Coconut Creek Boulevard in Coconut Creek.
To learn more or to RSVP, visit their event page.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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