Rise Up + Replay: Recapping the 2021 Rise Up Weekend

On June 25-26, 2021, The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) hosted “Rise Up Weekend: We Organize, We Vote, We Lead,” a virtual conference focused on activating young people to rise up for voting rights and racial justice. This event served as AGF’s 7th annual National Civic Leadership Training Summit, bringing together Andrew Goodman Ambassadors, Campus Champions, and Alumni; college students, administrators, and faculty from across the nation; partner organizations; and the general public. Rise Up Weekend featured live-streamed interactive training and networking sessions with over 60 speakers—including actors, musicians, athletes, elected officials, activists, and other influential voices—to inspire and equip students with the tools to rise up. 

As of May 21, 389 restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 48 states. That’s why we rose up. Young voters, especially youth of color, turned out in record numbers for the 2020 Election. In fact, a historic high of 55% of young people turned out to vote in 2020, an increase of 9% from 2016. However, young people’s enthusiasm has been met with an alarming rise in voter suppression bills aimed at restricting our freedom to vote. Newly introduced bills take aim at restricting early and absentee voting, enacting stricter voter ID laws, and making voter registration harder. With 70% of youth voting early or by mail in the 2020 Election, the new bills target young voters with surgical precision. 

This year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which not only lowered the voting age to 18, but also prohibits age discrimination in voting. Yet its promise remains unfilled. We must continue to rise up in support of the For the People Act (FTPA) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (JLVRA), two pieces of critical national legislation that would expand and restore voting rights for all Americans, and take civic action in the spirit of Freedom Summer. 

During Rise Up Weekend, more than 1,750 people experienced the digital content through our Run the World platform and Facebook livestream. Since then, the content has received nearly 6,000 total views! 

June 25, 2021: The Unfulfilled Promise of the Youth Vote

Rise Up Weekend kicked off with a “Ready to Rise Up” inspiration from host and Andrew Goodman Ambassador La Toria Lane, AGF President Alexandria Harris, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and New England Patriots running back James White. Following the kickoff, Alexandria Harris addressed the filibuster of the For the People Act in the Senate on June 22, and Ari Berman talked about the state of student voting rights, including the Justice Department’s new lawsuit against the state of Georgia over statewide voting restrictions in SB 202.

Day One sessions addressed current voting rights topics and celebrated the triumphs of student organizers in 2020. Attendees watched panel discussions and engaged in breakout sessions to learn about the unfulfilled promises of the 26th Amendment, the FTPA and JLVRA, and the power of youth. Additional session topics ranged from digital organizing to how to translate street movements into action at the ballot box. Segments featured speed networking and “Simon Says” with Andre Henry, who tied in an important message about power. We also heard fun inspirational messages from Portugal. the Man and danced it out with DJ Illexxandra. 

Huston-Tillotson University Andrew Goodman Ambassador Jeffrey Clemmons interviewed civil rights activist Dave Dennis and actor Danny Glover, alongside activist Maxima Guerrero, about the Civil Rights Movement, the Movement for Black Lives, and the fight to transform the future in a session titled “Living the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.” We also saw appearances from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, and activist Jamira Burley, who spoke about the importance of young people’s leadership and the need to expand voting rights.

Sessions also addressed how young people can organize in their communities to support on-going litigation against voter restrictions. Learn more in the “Equitable, Accessible Democracy and Voting Rights” discussion with leading progressive voting rights attorney Marc Elias and Andrew Goodman Alumna Rachel Campbell.

June 26, 2021: From Movement to Action

On Day Two of Rise Up Weekend, attendees engaged in interactive workshops to develop their campus action plans and learned strategies for how to lead through principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The DEI conversations centered on navigating white supremacy as an organizer, being an ally, and leading campus advocates with inclusive values. 

Additionally, attendees engaged in a training titled “Building Momentum for Advocacy Movements” with Chief Legal Officer of the New Georgia Project Aklima Khondoker and Andrew Goodman Campus Champion Angie Vuong. Ross Morales Rocketto, Co-Founder of Run for Something, shared insightful information about what’s necessary for young people to run for office. Rise Up Weekend’s final keynote address came from Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Desmond Meade, who shared his own story and powerful messages about standing up for your community, perseverance, and organizing for an equitable and inclusive democracy.

Closing Out the Conference

The overarching theme of “rising up” for voting rights was embedded throughout the weekend. Students learned strategies and tactics for rising up for voting rights on their campuses and in their broader communities. In the weekend’s closing session, Andrew Goodman Ambassadors shared why they rise up for voting rights

To continue rising up, there are five actions we recommend taking right now! As Alicia Garza and Representative Sarbanes said respectively, “Young people are the right now,” so “Don’t agonize, organize. Rise up!”

  1. Check out our Rise Up + Replay playlist to watch the complete Rise Up Weekend or  individual sessions. 
  2. Follow AGF’s Instagram and Facebook, as we continue to highlight key moments from Rise Up Weekend!
  3. Contact your U.S. Senators to demand that they reintroduce the For the People Act.
  4. Sign our petition to help get the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed. 
  5. Sign our pledge in support of an equitable youth democracy! 
Special Acknowledgments

The Andrew Goodman Foundation thanks our generous sponsors of Rise Up Weekend, including the Puffin Foundation, Manageroo, Bark Media, Bombas, Crooked Media, Film Movement, Patagonia, and Red Bay Coffee. Our sponsors’ monetary and in-kind contributions made Rise Up Weekend possible and allowed winners of our Rise Up Weekend scavenger hunts and games to walk away with amazing prizes. Furthermore, we thank our promotional partners, Campus Election Engagement Project, Campus Vote Project, Every Vote Counts, New Georgia Project, Rock the Vote, Scholars Strategy Network, the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, and more!

About the Author

Nicole Taylor is the former Senior Program Manager: Partnership Strategist at The Andrew Goodman Foundation.