Spotlight on student activists at voting rights teach-in

GRAND JUNCTION, CO – The Black Lives Matter movement is here to stay in Mesa County. Four young activists who spoke about racism and why every vote matters at this morning’s teach-in at Lincoln Park want to make sure it remains for as long as there is injustice.

Organized and hosted by the newly formed RAW (Right & Wrong) group and Western Slope Mutual Aid, the teach-in began with a live performance by local musician Zac Grant. About 150 residents, most of whom were masked and socially distancing across the wide, green lawn of the park, sat in the leafy shade facing a makeshift stage and enjoying homemade bread pudding, prepared at a tent near the entrance. A handful of volunteers were scattered throughout the crowd, clipboards in hand, ready to help anyone not yet registered to vote to do so on site.

Sixteen-year-old Omarion York-Clark kicked off the speaker portion with a powerful narrative about the “new Jim Crow” system and its devastating impact on Black lives, especially the modern day practice of mass incarceration. Tatum Menom, an Indian-American and recent graduate of Palisade High School, spoke about voter suppression and the numerous ways that groups in power, including public officials and legislators, prevent American citizens from accessing the ballot. Carlee Allen spoke about the importance of voting, especially for Black Americans and their allies, and why voting is both a privilege and a right that must be exercised in order for real change to occur. Finally, Liliana Flanigan, also a recent Palisade High School graduate, talked about voting up and down the ballot, at every election, including and especially local, municipal elections.

Most of those in attendance said they were already registered to vote, but it was clear that they were here to support the nascent, energized movement that has overturned institutions in nearly every community, large and small, across the country.

RAW leader Jay Bishop, who has played a major role in organizing recent events, including last Sunday’s teach-in on the CMU campus and the historic City Council meeting between Council members and local Black activists the week before, closed the event by reminding every adult in the audience and beyond of why it’s essential to vote.

“As adults here, it’s our responsibility — because we can vote — to make the world better for [the kids]. Our time its limited as we get older and older, […] but we do have the power. Together we have the power to shape the future for young ones. That’s our greatest responsibility.”

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