(From left-to-right) Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Councilman Curren Price, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the AAVREP office. (courtesy photo)

Prior to former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ resignation in December 2017, he spent the past four years serving the South Los Angeles community by taking on the state’s homelessness crisis, mental health and environmental issues. Although he is no longer serving in the assembly, Ridley-Thomas continues to be a voice and face of the community. This time however, he is taking his voice to the polls by encouraging California residents to register to vote! 

The African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project (AAVREP) is known as one of the most influential and effective voter registration efforts in California. AAVREP was founded 16 years ago by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Now with Sebastian Ridley-Thomas as the projects chief strategist, AAVREP will continue its legacy of voter empowerment through the electoral process. 

“Over the past 16 years, we as an organization have registered over 230,000 people according to the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder and California Secretary of State. We really just seek to build on that legacy of delivering on political empowerment for African Americans,” said Ridley-Thomas.  

“This is a critical time, African Americans are going to be pivotal to any number of elections. We think it is important that the ‘WokeVote18’ be a part of that.”  

Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and WokeVote18 participants. (courtesy photo)

A few weeks ago, AAVREP launched a massive 50,000 person statewide voter registration drive called “WokeVote18” for the 2018 election cycle.  

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Los Angeles Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, SEIU Local 2015 President LaPhonza Butler, SEIU Local 99 Treasurer Tonia McMillian, Michael Green of SEIU Local 721, Lee Wax of AFSCME Local 685, Charles Drew University President David Carlisle, Los Angeles Police Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill, Los Angeles County Board of Education Member Alex Johnson, Vice Chair of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, Jamarah Hayner and Apostle “BAM” Crawford of Bible Enrichment Fellowship Church led a crowd of “change agents” who were ready to increase the African American voter turnout. 

According to AAVREP, the “African American population in California is about 2.2 million people and election data shows that African American voters have an outsized impact on election outcomes. This is in large part due to high rates of participation by African American women in local, state and national elections. In both 2008 and 2012, Black women made history, voting in national elections at a higher rate than any other demographic in the country.” 

AAVREP stands on the belief that mobilizing Black people to vote will allow them to assist the government in addressing topics that are vital to people of color like access to health care, housing, and constitutional policing.  

WokeVote18 primarily focuses on Black voter registration however, AAVREP has and will continue to register voters of other ethnicities.  

To help with the launch of WokeVote18, AAVREP has partnered with community organizations to conduct focus groups and polling of African American voters in state and local elections.  

The African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project continues to push for Black voter empowerment. (courtesy photo)

“Black votes will be the margin of victory or the margin of despair and it’s my observation that the Black vote is often discounted. But we are really the ones that might shape what it means to protect democracy, improve equity, and eliminate disparity,” said Ridley-Thomas.   

“Whether it be an educational outcome for Black children, maternal health for Black women and internal health for infants, employment opportunity in a robust economy, where we still don’t see as much equity as we would hope for all African Americans and working people. Our votes are going to deliver on the promise of inclusion, democracy, and justice.” 

WokeVote18 is located at AAVREP Headquarters 3653 S. La Brea Ave LA, CA 90016 near the intersection of Rodeo Road and La Brea Avenue in the Crenshaw District. For more information on the voter registration drive or to participate, visit www.aavrep.org, or call 323-903-5542.