Friday, August 28, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., The Time Is Now Douglass Redevelopment Corporation is hosting a food distribution and voter registration event. The event will be held at Douglass Park at 1616 Ash Street in North Memphis’ Douglass neighborhood.
The Mid-South Food Bank is supplying boxes of food available for pickup by car or walk-up.
“With the Mid-South Food Bank offering mobile food banks and rolling back their rules to provide these food banks in neighborhoods, we jumped right on board to help out here,” said TTINDRC Executive Director Kathy Yancey-Temple.
The event is geared towards North Memphis residents with an emphasis on those in the Douglass area but is open to anyone in need.
In addition, TTIND has partnered with the Center for Transforming Communities on a major voter registration initiative to get North Memphis residents to the polls in November.
“We're just encouraging people, especially young people, to come out, get registered to vote, and to vote in person. Because of what our current administration is doing with the mail system, we're not able to rely on what traditionally has already been sketchy for us,” she said, referencing the United States’ history of voter suppression
against Black Americans.
“What I'm telling people is, ‘If you can vote, if you still have your right to vote, it is your responsibility to try to vote and vote for those of us who cannot vote.”
The Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter is co-sponsoring the event, which will also include local elected officials volunteering their time.
Yancey-Temple said those officials made it clear they aren't coming for speeches and stumping. They're coming to work.
“This is not about getting the camera's attention. This is about getting the community’s attention," said Yancey-Temple.
“I do believe that if people in communities like Douglas saw that their elected officials, who look like them, are interested in them and know that we're here, then they will become more involved. I've seen that happen.”'
Elected officials who’ve signed on to pass out food and sign up new voters include: Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, City of Memphis Councilmember Michalyn Easter-Thomas, Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, and Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson. Yancey-Temple said Mayor Harris is also bringing 10 of his staff members who’ve volunteered for the event.
“These elected officials understand the importance of disenfranchised neighborhoods like Douglass," said Yancey-Temple. "We're human. We're people here. There are children and elderly here who actually need help and have a voice. They have something to contribute to the conversation, but they don't feel as if they do."
Yancey-Temple said both food and voting in North Memphis are deeply linked to racial injustice.
“Even before the pandemic, North Memphis, and particularly Douglass, was a food desert and has been for many, many years.
She said there are few stores available, most people don’t have personal vehicles, and public transportation is “virtually nonexistent here.” She said the pandemic has added new concerns like higher food costs, shortages of certain items, and loss of jobs.
In the case of voting, Yancey-Temple said the most effective tools used to disenfranchise Black people from their country's democratic processes are over policing and mass incarceration.
“If you have a criminal record, [voting] is the first thing they take away, and it is not easy to get it back. When you serve your time and ‘pay your debt to society,’ as they say, you should get your voting rights back,” she said.
Related: “The whole world is talking about police reform. Black Lives Matter has solutions.”
“Aside from the mass conservation, people really don't have a way to the voting booth or they have no interest. They don't believe that their votes will count,” she continued.
“[The Douglass community] votes at the Hollywood Community Center. There will be no long lines. There will be no overcrowding. So we're encouraging people to go and vote in person so that we know that their vote is being counted.”