Quentin and Stefanie James, founders of the Collective PAC, are working to build equitable representation in government for Black America
As the 2022 mid-terms approach, Black leadership from the NAACP to Black Voters Matter are concerned about several obstacles that Black America is facing when it comes to the ballot box and representation.
First, over 19 states have enacted voter suppression laws that will impact and disenfranchise voters of color. Next, redistricting maps have crippled viable candidates and many redistricting maps are tied up in court, which could possibly affect local elections across the nation.
While PACs – both Democrat and Republican – are raising millions of dollars for candidates running for office in this mid-term cycle, Black candidates do not always find themselves a part of either equation.
To help change that narrative, Quentin and Stefanie James started their own political action committee. The couple recently paid a visit to L.A. Sentinel to explain why building Black political power is crucial.
PAC stands for political action committee and in general, it is an organization that pools campaign contributions and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation.
L.A. Sentinel: Tell us about the Collective PAC?
Quentin James: The Collective PAC is a political action committee with the mission to build Black political power. We recruit train and fund Black candidates in the local, state and federal level all across the country, with the goal of ensuring that African Americans are equally represented in public office, no matter where you live.
LAS: Why did you feel that it was necessary to start the Collective PAC?
Stefanie Brown- James: 90% of all elected officials in this country are White. You look at prosecutors – 95% of our prosecutors are White in this country. And we love to say to change the laws, we must change the lawmakers, and unfortunately, in too many communities, we don’t have equity of representation of Black people on all levels of government.
Unfortunately, we also have situations where you have communities that are predominantly Black communities that are not represented by those who reflect them or who respect the community. And so, we’re really working hard to make sure we have that equity, and representation because we need to have progress and to have progress, we have to have policies that actually address the issues that we’re facing as a Black community.
LAS: You brought up the word equity. The Civil Rights Movement used equality. So what’s the difference between equity and equality as we face some of the same issues that we faced back then?
QJ: When it comes to politics, for instance, you have a community. You have two Black city council members and two White city council members, but that community is 90%, Black. There’s equal representation, but there isn’t equitable representation. It’s not just about having the same amount that everyone else has, but having a proportional representation of your population in those places.
LAS: When you say that, it makes me think of redistricting. So, as the Collective PAC goes and endorses these candidates, are you concerned about the congressional and local maps that are being drawn?
SBJ: We actually are. We have been focused on taking it very seriously. Even now, we still have some communities [where] their maps are not finalized yet, folks that are still going through the court system to figure out what’s going to happen with their maps.
We’ve even had candidates who we’ve endorsed in certain districts that have had to move to a different district in the midst of their campaigns because of ridiculous redistricting. We can’t wait until the census comes in the next 10 years.
We have to tell the community now to prepare for the next 10 years, when the Census comes because it’s vitally important that we’re counted.
LAS: What state elections should people be paying attention to?
QJ: We really care about Georgia, there’s going to be a really important governor’s race there. But also down the ballot, you have people running for Congress in Georgia who are now possibly being ousted because of these new maps. Florida is another place where it’s always a little crazy. We think about the [year] 2000 and how it decided the election. The U.S. Senate race is one to watch, the
Congressional races – those races really matter.
North Carolina, we have a Black woman running for U.S. Senate, and then the Midwest will always be important, right. So Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Ohio – really important places.
And then out west, we know that the 2020 election was kind of decided between Nevada, and Arizona. Really important that we watch what’s happening there. We want Black attorney general in Nevada that we’re watching cautiously. I would say those seven or eight states are really important.
The thing about California and Los Angeles that we really love is that the people here have an outside ability to influence elections. Due to the funding that comes out of California, a lot of people come to L.A. to raise money for their campaigns. But beyond that, I mean, the star power here as well is really important and influential to persuade voters, to not only support a candidate, but also to get out and get registered, and to show up and vote.
The Collective PAC has endorsed Los Angeles candidates Karen Bass for mayor of Los Angeles, Sydney Kamlager for Congress District 37 representative, Mike Gipson for State Assembly District 34 and Cecil Rhambo for Los Angeles County Sheriff.
To support or learn more about the Collective PAC, visit www.collectivepac.org