For much of the last year, Sinclair Skinner has traveled the country in a bus. He's now making his last stop.
It’s no ordinary bus, though. It's been part of a political effort to register Black voters around the country as well as to galvanize and compel them to vote for President Obama.
“Our aim is to help the re-election of the best president this country has ever had,” said Skinner, a civil rights activist, political adviser and entrepreneur based in Washington, in an interview with BET.com.
Skinner heads 1911 United, a super PAC whose aim is to mobilize Black voters in important battleground states in the upcoming presidential election. The organization has done more than just raise money for the Obama campaign. It has undertaken a long list of activities, from registering voters to taking them to the polls.
Its name comes from the fact that leaders of the PAC are members of two predominantly Black fraternities — Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi — that were both founded in 1911. And they have used those networks as a means of energizing African-American voters to go to the polls.
In a 43-foot-long bus, complete with two couches, a work station with satellite communications and kitchen, they have traveled from Indiana to Ohio and from Virginia to Florida, often while playing the rapper Nas’ recording “Black President.” And with the Nov. 6 election a week away, they are taking on their final route through the state of Florida.
For the next several days before the election Skinner and his colleagues are heading from North Carolina to Florida, where they will spend more than a week traveling to cities with large Black communities. Florida is considered one of the pivotal states in this year’s presidential election, and Skinner said that his organization will do everything from passing out literature to driving people to the polls.
“We travel from state to state, and we do voter registration and voter education,” said Skinner, who is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. “We talk about voter suppression efforts and voter ID laws. We want voters to be educated — and energized.”
Skinner also said the idea of muted Black enthusiasm for the president’s re-election was “a myth” and that he had seen signs of high energy for Obama.
“We have seen an incredible amount of enthusiasm in this campaign,” he said, saying that there were long lines of African-American voters casting early ballots in North Carolina. “Black people know that Barack Obama’s presidency is a culmination of decades of dreams.”
The weeks and months on the road have given the 1911 United leaders a new appreciation for the art of grass-roots organizing.
“This has been a very humbling experience,” said Ernest Robinson, a motivational speaker based in Richmond, Virginia, who has been an integral part of 1911 United.
“In every state and every city we’ve been to, there has been a hunger on the part of our people to be a part of this campaign,” said Robinson, who is a member of Omega Psi Phi. “For me, this goes back to the kind of organizing that young peple did in the freedom riders in the 1960s. It’s a legacy I can pass down to my 3-year-old daughter.”
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(Photo: Courtesy of Morris Biggers)