There is no ‘race blind’ fight in redistricting

Throughout the last six months, thousands of community members and fair redistricting advocacy groups have come together to shed light on the importance of a fair and equitable redistricting process. As the final Redistricting Roadshow concludes on January 20th, a misleading narrative has emerged: the Louisiana redistricting process should remain the same since its inception and not look at race. 

Unfortunately, Louisiana has a history of extreme racial gerrymandering and partisan gridlock that has undermined minority voting power and paralyzed the political process for Louisaians for far too many years. While previous redistricting cycles have favored and empowered certain groups, communities of color have unfortunately faced some of the most audacious challenges to limit and dilute their voting power. In fact, during roadshow public testimonies, folks have shared their frustrations with unequal districts that pack and crack Black folks and minorities. 

The truth is that the redistricting cycle does more than redraw political lines, but it is the north star of equity work. Fair congressional and legislative maps heavily influence who runs for office, community safety, economic opportunities, healthcare access, infrastructure, and more.

All Louisiana voters should be able to choose a candidate of choice or live in competitive districts. Louisiana’s Black voters are severely underrepresented. According to the 2020 Census data, one-third of Louisiana’s population is majority-minority.

Currently, only 37 out of 144 of the members of the State Legislature are Black, and only one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts is majority-minority. There is no ‘race-blind’ fight in redistricting. 

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act protects the rights of Black voters to have an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice through additional majority-minority districts–regardless of the party of the candidate (or lack of party affiliation, if it is a nonpartisan election).

It is time that elected officials right what has been wrong in the past, such as the approval of racially gerrymandered maps that have neutered the voices of many minority voters.  The legislature cannot prioritize partisan strategies over Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act compliance.  If February’s redistricting cycle is done correctly, the anticipated process will allow all Louisiana voters to have a fair say in how they are governed for the next decade.

My hope – and the hope of many community members across the state – is that in 2022, the Louisiana legislature will stand on the right side of history and set the tone of equity for generations to come.

Janea is a Louisiana native and hosts a weekly podcast called Her Story, L.L.C. She creates opportunities for critical dialogue and action for Black Women who have defied obstacles and turned them into success. Janea Jamison is a longtime advocate for race and gender justice. Her justice lens focuses on centering BIPOC women and girls in policy, organizing, and advocacy to develop a roadmap for equity. Currently, Janea leads all programming strategies for the Power Coalition. Her work includes the statewide growth of the Power Coalition and the implementation of core programming, including She Leads-- a leadership program for female leaders of color; Black Men and Boys Statewide work; voting rights work; and policy/advocacy work. Under Janea’s leadership, the Power Coalition led a successful 2020 statewide Census campaign that utilized a digital informed approach to reach thousands of “Hard to Count” Louisianians across the state during a pandemic. She also leads a comprehensive Election Protection Program in partnership with NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Prior to her position with the Power Coalition, Janea worked with the East Baton Rouge Metro Council as the Legislative Assistant to Councilwoman Erika L. Green (D-5) and Court System Supervisor in Assumption Parish under the leadership of Mayor Ron Animashaun. Her program areas included constituent relations and youth development. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Master’s in Public Administration from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is also a best-selling lead author and featured writer in the first edition of the HBCU Experience Anthology: The Southern University System Edition. She volunteers for local nonprofits such as Imagination Leads, Butterfly Society, St. Vincent De Paul, Big Buddy Program, and DreamWorks Louisiana in her spare time. She is a 2021 Southern University Alumni Federation 40 under Forty Cohort Trois, a 2020 Institute of Politics: Loyola University New Orleans Cohort, and a 2019 BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity) Fellow. Through a commitment to service to a cause greater than self, she hopes to inspire millennials to take an active stand in their communities.

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