Beyonce's Guide to Increasing Civic Engagement

by Durrel Douglas


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Who Run the World? #Millennials

Just days ago, Texas-native Beyonce shattered records releasing her 5th album without promoting it the traditional way.  Instead she used Instagram and sold 800k+ in less than 48 hours!  There were no posters, no commercials and she didn’t do the rounds on daytime TV and late night TV, claiming I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé said. “I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. It worked!  The singer posted a video on her Instagram page about the release, simply with the caption “Surprise!”  With an earth-shattering 800k+ copies sold in the first 48 hours, she sent a clear message:  Out with the old, in with the new!  In my opinion, these are the tactics that one must use when trying to reach people these days—specifically, Millennials.

According to the 2010 US Census, those ages 15-34 in 2010 (18-37 now in 2013) account for approximately 29% of the population! But, we aren’t voting.  Compared to the rest of the country, Texans aren’t very civic-minded. And when it comes to participating in elections, the Lone Star State is dead last.

With Texas’ voter turnout dead-last nationwide, and reaching new lows among those in my generation, us millenialls born between 1982 and 2004 (1986 for me), the same old, same old won’t work—here’s why:

·         Phone Banks:  I don’t answer my phone unless I know who’s calling.  Sallie Mae and Aunt Sarah don’t get through my screening on a good day.  Leave a message.

·         Traditional Field:  I don’t answer my door unless I’m expecting you.  Oh, and I’m still registered to vote at my mom’s house because that’s where all my mail goes.  Good luck finding me.

·         Mailers:  Really?  I don’t check my mail on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis at times  C’mon.  In fact, I get those sticky notices from USPS threatening me since my mailbox is often full—of trash.

The “Writings on the Wall!”Now, let’s get this straight: I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer” or anything… Furthermore I agree that phone banks, field and mailers are still necessary to increase civic engagement and win a campaign in 2013.  I just think it’s time we “Check Up On It” by downloading the latest update for this “system” of ours adding some tools to the toolbox.

 I think we’ve got to take a page out of Queen Bey’s book to “Upgrade” our methods in an effort to put our “Love on Top” for voter turnout.  Let’s take a look at the hidden messages in her lyrics that could essentially increase civic engagement.

“If You Can Reach Me, You Can Feel My Burning Flame”ßThis is one of the first lyrics in her 2003 hit and I believe it rings true to what we must do to engage the “youngsters” in Texas.  Traditional methods are absolutely necessary, but we’ve got to tweak our outreach methods and messaging to truly engage this sector of the electorate.   Whether you’re a candidate, the Executive Director of a non-profit, or a consultant for an issue-based campaign, if you’re trying to reach me take a page from my mother’s handbook:  Make a real investment in social media and messaging!  You have a better chance of reaching me via Facebook messenger or commenting on one of my posts, than calling me or showing up at my door.  Remember, I don’t even live there!  Also, as I sit at work on a daily basis, I usually have four tabs opened constantly:  GoogleMail for work, Facebook, Texas Tribune and whatever I’m actually working on at the time.  My “Video Phone” is usually on the charger away from me, and, again I’m reluctant to answer unless I know who you are.  I’ll leave you asking “Why Don’t You Love Me?”  Huffington Post has a rather interesting article with even more hyperlinks that study this increasing phenomenon.   

“Some 60% of American adults use either social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project finds that 66% of those social media users—or 39% of all American adults—have done at least one of eight civic or political activities with social media.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at Pew’s report aka “Countdown” studying Social Media and Civic Engagement here, and tell me what you think below in the comments section!

Here are the major takeaways from the report:

  • 20% of social media users have used the tools to follow elected officials and candidates for office.  Some 32% of the conservative Republicans who use social media follow officials on social media and 27% of liberal Democrats who use social media do so.
  • In 2012, 17% of all adults posted links to political stories or articles on social networking sites, and 19% posted other types of political content. That is a six-fold increase from the 3% of adults who posted political stories or links on these sites in 2008.
  • In 2012, 12% of all adults followed or friended a political candidate or other political figure on a social networking site, and 12% belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue. That is a four-fold increase from the 3% of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008.

Senfronia Thompson Joins Protest of Macy's on Black Friday

by Durrel Douglas


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While many of you were at home watching the annual Thanksgiving Parade or in line to take advantage of the Black Friday specials, dozens joined State Representative Senfronia Thompson to protest Macy's.  I got the chance to sit down with the legendary Texas State Representative to learn more about her bill that passed both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate, only to be blocked via veto by Governor Rick Perry.  

"For every dollar a man makes, a woman only makes 77 cents for the same work with the same experience," said Thompson who's the Dean of the women in the historic Texas House of Representatives.  She says her bill which passed the house and senate would've strengthened the Lilly Ledbetter Act signed into law by President Obama in 2009.  The bill had bipartisan support and should've been a no-brainer for Perry.  So, how did we end up in front of Macy's, you ask?

Ms. Thompson gave me a copy of the letter issued to Governor Perry's office by Macy's Senior Vice President Richard Cohen requesting he veto the legislation claiming "The federal requirements under the Lilly Ledbetter [Act] are unnecessary would would be harmful to Texas..."  

Since Macy's was the main culprit behind the veto, Thompson has since pulled out the "big guns."

Check out the video here:

 


Assata Richards Wins NMT Online Poll!

by Durrel Douglas


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With a staggering 33% of the the vote in a spread of twelve candidates, community organizer and college professor Assata Richards flexes her campaign's biceps with a stellar poll performance just four weeks away from Election Day.   With a second place fundraising nod and endorsements from the likes of former city councilwoman Ada Edwards in her war chest, it's clear she's running a real campaign.  

I'll admit, I jumped on the Boykins camp before learning of her candidacy and that of Christina Sanders.  After meeting her in person and observing her polished, yet down-to-earth MO, I  almost gave her my vote at a recent candidate screening.  There have been several instances--conversations at the barber shop, in line at Frenchy's to pick up my birthday cake or at Wheeler Avenue Baptist church, where I've overheard her name in other folks' conversation.  If Assata continues her uphill approach to this election, she will most probably be the one in a runoff with Dwight Boykins in December.

After cleaning the list of responses by deleting multiple responses given from the same IP address (FYI: someone in Cypress really likes Ivis Johnson), we were left with over 100 responses--104 to be exact, from an initial field of 800+ responses.  Many of the initial responses were from IP Addresses outside the country and voted for Ivis Johnson.  Keep in mind the results are from folks all over the city/region, not just District D.  Stay tuned since we'll conduct an actual straw poll on the ground in District D on October 12!

Ballots were disqualified if they:

-voted multiple times from the same computer (IP Address) 

-voted outside the US (robots) 

Another interesting factoid is folks who voted for her online took the longest on average to fill out their online ballot-- yes, Survey Monkey tracks this stuff.  What this tells me is people thought before answering each of the questions.  

Here's a screenshot with responses from the first question:

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After looking at this spread of 12 candidates, it's becoming more and more obvious that 50.1% is going to be near impossible on November 5th for any candidate.  Even putting a margin of error at +/- 10%, that magic number seems like reaching for the stars.  I hope they're vamping up their field components now and swarm District D to get every vote possible.

The next question asked folks who they thought was most likely to win the election.  Here are the results: 

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As expected, Dwight Boykins performed well in this category, but lost by a single vote. With his astronomical campaign finance numbers and a network that you'd assume includes the likes of Olivia Pope, many folks assume he'll lead the pack on November 5th, but by how much?   

The next question in the online survey asked people who they considered most trustworthy, here are the results: 

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Remember the blog post where I'd mentioned Assata's blue sandals at one of the candidate screenings?   It appears her down-to-earth aura is polling well from the looks of this online poll.  

Let's take a look at the results of the final question which asked folks which candidate was the most visible:

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As expected, Dwight Boykins leads the pack here.  I'm curious as to how Anthony Robinson ended up in 3rd place for this question and Georgia Provost has yet to even get an honorable mention in any of the categories.  November 5th is just around the bend! 

I'm curious to know your thoughts on the results! 


Eric Dick, Candidate for Houston Mayor

by Durrel Douglas


Eric Dick is a successful attorney, new father and a stand up guy.  He wants to be the next Mayor of the greatest city there ever was--- Houston.  For the first time, I actually conducted this interview in the candidate's home!

I arrived at Eric Dick's home at 5:30 PM and he greeted me at the door with a firm handshake and invited me inside.  After sitting down in his office, he offered me a glass of water and we jumped right into the interview.  After the interview, I walked out to my car, put the key in the ignition, and nothing happened!  It appeared my battery had died.  Not only did Mr. Dick try to locate jumper cables, he drove me to two stores 'til we found a place that sold them.  

Along the way, I got to know Mr. Dick a bit more.  We talked politics, his new title of "dad," and the like.  

Here's his closing statement since my phone ran out of space before he could finish: 

 


How the Dallas Cowboys will Affect the 2016 Election

by Durrel Douglas


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Love 'em or hate 'em, Dallas Cowboys top Forbes' list of most profitable NFL teams.  No matter how often they lose or win--mostly lose, their fans ride with them into the sunset season after season and it's type of "ride or die" loyalty that groups aimed at increasing civic engagement in The Lone Star State will have to incubate and multiply.  Texas is DEAD LAST in voter turnout when compared to the other 49 states and DC!  Yes, sadly we're even behind Mississippi for a change. Texas is a big state.  In fact, El Paso is closer to California than to Dallas!

They say everything's bigger and Texas, and such is true when it comes to football.  Don't believe me?  The small town of Brenham, Texas boasts a population of around 15,000 and whenever the Brenham High School varsity team has a home game, all 15,000 folks come to the game wearing green!  I believe we'll have to use the same concepts the Cubs use to fill Prideland (their football stadium) on any given Friday night to drive up enthusiasm around voting.  

 

  GET 'EM ON THE TEAM

Texas ranked 43rd in donating, 42nd in volunteering, and 37th in group membership.  Whether you're on the field throwing a pass, in the band playing the trumpet or in the stands wearing a green shirt, you're part of the team.  Groups who really want to engage the Texas electorate have to get them on the team--- get some skin in the game!  When you get someone to invest their time to your cause, they're more likely to do whatever it takes to win.  With the organization I currently work for, I've noticed our members become really engaged after their first completed call to action.  Whether it be something as simple as writing a letter to the editor about an issue we're working on, or designing the flyer for our upcoming meeting, it's the first step that makes you feel part of the team! 

If we want them rooting for civic engagement, we have to have get Texans on our team!  When a Texan gives you his/her word, you can take that to the bank. 

 

PUT SOME EXCITING PLAYERS ON THE BENCH

To put it bluntly, our candidate roster here in Texas needs an overhaul!  High turnout comes in competitive, contested races that force candidates to get out into the field and talk to their potential constituents.  Before we can increase voter participation in some state house, state senate and congressional districts, some folks are going to have to move aside or be escorted (if you get my drift).  Let's truly organize folks and identify leaders that run for office from among our ranks!  

Have you been to the Texas Capitol lately?  It's time to blow out all the cobwebs and get rid of that smell of moth balls. 

 

 LEAVE THE TALKING POINTS AT HOME--- WE CALL THAT "ALL HAT, NO CATTLE" IN TEXAS

There's nothing Texans hate more than being "talked at."  We've got to have genuine, face-to-face conversations in order to truly change hearts and minds on the issues important to Texans.  Concentrate on the quality of conversations over quantity of conversations held in any given time.  Furthermore, tell it like it is--that's what makes us trust you at the door or the rally.  Give me not only your facts and why it's important that we do X, but also play devil's advocate.  Tell us why the other side of the issue exists, and what they're concerns are.  If maneuvered correctly, you'll win a Texan over more likely than not.

 

TEXAS AIN'T OHIO, COLORADO OR PENNSYLVANIA 

Being from Texas, it's obvious when I visit other parts of the United States.  Whether it's the fact I say "Good Morning" to everyone I make eye contact with walking down the street, or the fact that I find 60 degrees a bit chilly while other folks are donning shorts--It's apparent I'm a Texan!  The same way I laughed at what was brought to me in a Minnesota restaurant when I ordered brisket is what could happen if you try to force one of those battleground state plans that worked elsewhere, here.  Furthermore, the idea of transplanting campaign folks from these areas doesn't seem to be a surefire way to success in TEXAS-- #ImJustSaying.  There are plenty of Texas folk who'll tell you this ain't their first rodeo.  

We Texans are straight talkers.  Don't call me like a telemarketer, instead come to my door and tell me what you really want and how it'll help my family.  Leave that New York City elsewhere, pull up a chair on my front porch and have some sweet tea.  Give me tangible, concrete steps instead of over-arching, broad strokes concepts that I won't understand.   I believe if we're going to truly engage Texans, we'll do it face-to-face.  Recently while block walking in the Heights neighborhood in Houston with a volunteer who's originally from Wisconsin, we were invited in out of the rain.  The homeowner then went on to tell us about his neighborhoods garden club and showed us pics of humming birds he snapped with new camera.  I was so caught up in the conversation I hadn't noticed my Wisconsin-native colleague's impatience.  At the end of the 30-minute encounter, I had an updated phone number for him, his wife's REAL email address a commitment to vote early and some mosquito repellent for the rest of our block walk!  That's going to have to be part of the model here in Texas.

 

Now let's saddle up and ride to our rightful place in the voter turnout line-up... the front of the line! 

 


ONLINE POLL: District D

by Durrel Douglas


Please answer each question, then remember to click "Done" at the bottom of the page.  Results of the poll to be released Monday, September 30th.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

The Lady with the Blue Sandals

by Durrel Douglas


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During the recent Harris County Young Democrats screening of the District D candidates, I couldn't help but notice the stark difference in footwork and how each candidate's shoes told their story.  As the social media addict in the room, I snapped this picture and posted it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Dwight Boykins wore his signature polished cowboy boots bringing light to his trail riding hobby, while Georgia Provost donned Baptist church pumps.   A few of the gentlemen on the panel wore cheap dress shoes mirroring their unpolished campaigns, but I won't mention them.  Of all the differences on the panel, one candidate stood out from the crowd--Assata Richards.  You see, of all the candidates sitting in the iron folding chairs facing the screening committee, she wore the same shoes she probably wears while working at Project Row House.  During the entire screening, I couldn't help but think about Richards' blue sandals, and the statement she was making without even knowing it:  She's there to play ball!

Instead of going to Nordstrom Rack to catch a quick deal on some pumps to "impress" panelists, she came as she was.  I found this confidence, realness and grass-rootsy stance impressive.  Assata looked like a community organizer because that's what she is.  If elected, she wouldn't read talking points prepared by staffers or lobbyists--that's what the blue sandals said to me and it almost won my vote during the screening although I voted Boykins at the end of the day.

Moving forward, I'm looking forward to see all the grandiose ideas heard at recent forums, BBQ's and fundraisers be quantified on the ground.  Let's not forget how elections are decided.  On November 5th, the talking points, endorsements and campaign finance reports will go out the window.  How will the voters decide?  


Demetria Smith, candidate for Houston City Council District D

by Durrel Douglas


She's a business owner, mother, grandmother, accomplished stage play writer and radio host on 1360 AM and radio host on 1360 AM; now she wants to be the next City Councilwoman for District D.  

Demetria Smith is the first candidate that I interviewed in my living room, and it was the perfect place considering her warm, inviting personality.  She arrived at my apartment at 4:50 pm just as I was just finishing my General Tso's chicken dinner from Kim Son. Ms. Smith donned a gray suit complete with a string a pearls and was accompanied by a staffer--she totally looked the part of "Councilwoman Smith." Having a genuine, down-to-earth personality combined with the same passion for the pipeline to prison that I have will surely make her a force to be reckoned with on November 5th.  

At twelve minutes, Ms. Smith's interview is the longest in the series and each minute was totally worth it.  Had my iPhone not stopped, it would've been even longer.  After the camera stopped, we continued our conversation about her vision for the district.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that the five years I spent working at Texas prisons lit a fire under me making the "end of the pipeline to prison" my top priority.  To hear her not only agree but mention the steps (DAEP, JJAEP, TYC, TDCJ) made her one of my favorites in this race.

A mother of 6 and grandmother with a story that reminds me of State Senator Wendy Davis' truly brings my favorite Muhammad Ali quote to life:  

"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."

If the Smith camp can show Houston the Demetria Smith I met, she might be occupying a corner office on Bagby in January.  Only time will tell!

 

 


Durrel chats with Mayor Annise Parker about her campaign

by Durrel Douglas


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Touting victories like Hire Houston First, with almost a thousand local companies pledged to hire local workers on local projects, a revived/reformed police department and bulldozing more than 2,000 dangerous buildings Mayor Annise Parker is on track to keep the coveted seat at the center of the horse shoe on Bagby.  She says she's focused city resources on helping kids stay in school, funding summer jobs and after-school programs and rebuilding libraries; balanced our budgets without a tax increase; and, with the approval of voters, created a pay-as-you-go program for street repair and drainage projects.  All of that may be true, but that's not why I think she resonates so well with Houstonians. 

Although she holds the reigns to the 4th largest city in the nation, the largest city in the State of Texas, she remains humble and her warm, inviting personality reassures her constituents.  Working in the community organiing world, I've literally seen Mayor Parker (Neecy as my friend Courtney Alexander affectionately refers to her) more than I've seen my dad lately.  

During our brief chat she mentioned initiatives aimed at filling the gap in skilled trades, eliminating human trafficking and addressing homelessness in the city.  As I've said before, I'm an Annise Parker supporter and hope you will be too!

Here's the video:


Dwight Boykins, Candidate for Houston City Council District D

by Durrel Douglas


If you take the swagger of Borris Miles, the confidence of Muhammad Ali and the heart of Alma Allen---put it in a pan and bake it at 350 degrees, the dish you get might taste like Dwight Boykins.  With an astronomical $150,000 campaign war chest, former Mayor Lee P. Brown as his campaign treasurer and connections in both the business and political arenas, Boykins has the potential to take this race without the presumed runoff in December if that momentum translates to boots on the ground.

Arriving twenty minutes late to the meeting thanks to Google Maps and that good ol' Houston traffic, I pulled up beside the "Dwight-mobile"--  the beige GMC Yukon XL sitting on factory chrome with his campaign logo adorned on both sides.  I snapped a quick pic of the logo on the side of the his door before I noticed the motor was running and Mr. Boykins was inside.  He stepped out wearing polished cowboy boots, a plaid shirt and a blazer, Dwight Boykins seems to already fit the bill.    

With ties to city hall, Austin and Washington, Boykins says he plans to connect the dots and use that experience to drive resources to our city--specifically District D.

With Dallas Jones' Elite Change handling the campaign and the resources one would expect to see in an At-Large race, the Boykins freight train is running full speed toward a corner office in that white building on Bagby with the one-foot pool in the back yard.   As a young Black man, it's encouraging to see that people from neighborhoods like South Park, South Union or Sunnyside where Willie Belle Boone resides can end up successful and reaching back to pull others up with them.

 

 

Assata Richards, Candidate for Houston City Council District D

by Durrel Douglas


She's real, knowledgeable and optimistic--those are three things that just might take Assata Richards to a corner office at 901 Bagby.  I first saw her at the A. Philip Randolph Institute breakfast where she gave a brief stump speech like the rest of the candidates- but there was something different about her’s.  I remember the first time I heard President Obama speak.  He wasn't The President then, but there was something special about him.  As she was speaking, one of my favorite Muhammad Ali quotes came to mind:

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”

-Muhammad Ali

After doing a bit of research I found out Ms. Richards, like my mom, had her son at a young age.  I further learned she would go on to obtain her Bachelor’s, Master’s and a PHD.  Her role in the heart of the district at Project Row houses shows her roots.  Her post on the Board of Commissioners for the Houston Housing Authority shows her ability and connections.  Her story makes her one of my favorites.