By Asia Nail
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
The protests over police brutality against Black people is inspiring a new wave of Black civic engagement. One of the best ways to create change at all levels of society and to have your voice heard is by voting. US Civil rights leaders of the past knew this and fought for decades to ensure Black people had the equal right to vote. But even now, there are still barriers – barriers that The Movement and founder Tina Butts are educating the community on how to overcome.
The Movement is mobilizing the next generation of black voters here in Lucas county. “We have a special trust within our own community,” says Butts. “We make sure everyone is registered and engaged in the political issues that matter to them.”
By trade, Butts is a bail bondswoman dealing in all types of bonds from criminal, janitorial, travel checks and those dealing with guardianship appointments, just to name a few. She is the owner of T-Bonds Bail Bonds Services, located in downtown Toledo across from the county jail, at 1709 Spielbusch Ave.
“Frankly many are disillusioned with the voting process and overall feel like black votes have been historically counted out,” shares Butts. “The only way to have faith in our current process is to know the issues and candidates that best support the goals of equality for the black community.”
Anything less than systemic change will allow a current supremacist system to continue to function as it was originally designed—to the detriment of black and brown livelihood.
“We want people to understand WHY their vote matters when it comes to fixing institutions that no longer serve us,” says Butts.
To that end, The Movement has identified five key policy areas to systematically address the challenges often facing the underserved: Disproportionate neighborhood violence, institutionalized racism, improving the education system, improving employment rates and mentorship opportunities.
“Health equity is also on our agenda in the midst of this pandemic. We want to save as many lives as possible,” shares Butts. “We know a lot of the trends and the statistics around our Black and Latino citizens here in Lucas County in terms of vaccination rates, we are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized and to die from COVID-19 without preventative treatment.”
Removing barriers and providing accurate information is part of the state of Ohio’s push to get more people in Black and Latino communities vaccinated.
In Lucas County only 28 percent of the African-American community is vaccinated. That’s a number that has many worried especially as positive case numbers are rising with the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Not only has The Movement invigorated new life into the voting booths, they are also helping the inner city (many of whom are hesitant) to get vaccinated, as Ohio pushes to reach a 70 percent vaccination rate to obtain herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2.
After losing her mother to coronavirus and watching her sister fight for her life on a ventilator for two weeks, Tina Butts decided nothing will deter her from assisting Toledoans from receiving education and easily accessible vaccinations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a new study shows that the coronavirus vaccines work afficiently at keeping people out of the hospital. The study examined over 43,000 cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County between May 1 and July 25 and found that unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to end up in the hospital than those who are fully vaccinated.
The Movement uses grassroots efforts to build trust back in black and brown neighborhoods one personalized conversation at a time. They have now teamed up with the V Project who has the same simple shared goal: Help vaccinate 70 percent of Toledo and northwest Ohio and be a model for other cities.
Walking around the neighborhoods, Butts encounters mixed responses to the vaccine.
Medical officials say, although the vaccine was released with unprecedented speed, it went through the same rigorous review process as other vaccines.
While what appears to be ‘fast’ to the general public, government health officials assure the public that the science behind the shot already existed, perfected more than 15 years ago, but just needed a new virus to be applied to.
The leadership of The Health Department, the Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners may be good but many say they are not necessarily the people who are going to be effective in delivering the message surrounding vaccination to communities of color.
“The black and brown community don’t personally know corporations, they know people. They know Tina Butts and The Movement. The community knows they can trust us,” explains Butts.
Many people in our underserved areas still have the barriers of transportation, technology, and education surrounding inoculation. The Movement is finding much of the African-American hesitancy in our area is simply due to these factors. “With our events and door-to-door canvassing we continue to increase our success rates. We put 8-10,000 life saving shots into arms because of our ground roots efforts alone,” says Butts.
Still building trust and educating the community is at the heart of Butts’ plight. “I’m not sure there’s another community in Ohio that is doing what we are doing,” she says.
“The corporate community, the institutional and government community, the private sector and us, the people with our feet to the street, are all collaboratively determined to defeat this invisible ghost named COVID.”
Still giving people data and numbers isn’t always a convincing methodology in the black community, other Black and Brown people telling their stories and giving first-hand accounts with the virus on the other hand may be.
“There will be more storytelling activities to amplify the voices of real people in our vaccine hesitant communities who have been impacted by this virus. Our hope is that our community takes notice and makes educated medical decisions with their healthcare providers based on facts and not rumors,” stresses Butts. “People will hear from others they may actually identify with. We can’t forget about health equity in the black community, either.”
The Movement’s message is not one of forcing people to get vaccinated, rather they want to ensure people have the information that leads to them making a confident decision and to also have the opportunity to be vaccinated quickly, in a convenient way.
Those behind The Movement emphasize the importance of our underserved communities having a collective generational voice to affect change within the issues that matter most with their votes.
The Movement is bridging these generational voter gaps with their four-part education strategy:
- Empower community through voter education and voter registration
- Increase minority and young adult voter participation in Lucas County.
- Bring political empowerment through social engagement.
- Create meaningful fun experiences through voting.
Often when it comes to voting, millennials are more engaged than gen-Xers. “All the generations matter and when we come together more institutional change that makes a real difference in our communities will happen,” explains Tina.
Mature leaders understand that it enhances black and brown communities to train the next generation and more so to cultivate them to carry on a strong historic ancestry of African-American progress with their VOTE.
Many believe being black in America in itself is living in a perpetual state of distress. People always say things like you’ll be a great leader one day, but never have any practical steps on how to bring that into reality.
The Movement also shares resources to link our community’s youth to tools on how to be effective while they are maturing through this uniquely stressful time in the world.
We are dealing with a spectrum of issues within underserved communities. What does leadership look like to us? Until we collectively vote, The Movement would argue, black and brown communities will never effect true change in organized politics.
Ms. Tina Butts isn’t into labels, she’s into action. Although working at the helm of The Movement, she doesn’t give herself a title. “We are all in this together. We don’t need special titles to complete our mission. We prefer good ole hard work and a lot of love,” she explains.
As a group, most African Americans feel that there has yet to be a white generation to have a revolutionary commitment to black people’s liberation in America. If this is the case, voting as a priority in the black community has never been more important.
“Our strategy is not to align with specific candidates or parties as much as building people’s understanding of political power,” shares Butts
Let’s all bring black and brown issues to the forefront of our lives, not only as we near election months but always. Ms. Tina Butts, The Movement and their allied partners are doing their part in bringing more equity for the underserved through voter education, registration and vaccination.
Remember the deadline to register to vote or to update your voting information is 30 days prior to the election in which you wish to vote. You can find more information and get involved with The Movement at www.themovementteamlucascounty.com.