Welcome to The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Take Your Power Back Weekend

On August 1 and 2, The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) hosted its first ever Take Your Power Back Weekend, a virtual video conference focused on activating Gen Z and Millennials to take back their power at the ballot box and beyond. Despite Millennials and Gen Zers constituting one of the largest voting-eligible groups in the country, young voters face a lot of voting barriers and are frequently targeted by suppression tactics. In 2020, these challenges are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting confusion of campus closures and last-minute election changes. In this unprecedented landscape, Take Your Power Back Weekend aimed to inspire, educate, and empower students to make their voices heard in one of the most important elections in history. 

This event also served as AGF’s 6th annual National Civic Leadership Training Summit, bringing together Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Ambassadors and Campus Champions; students, administrators, faculty from across the nation; partners; and the general public. Although we could not convene in person, the two-day event featured live-streamed interactive sessions with over 80 speakers including actors, musicians, athletes, elected officials, activists, and other influential voices to equip students with the necessary information to go out and take their power back ahead of the upcoming presidential election. 

Since launching on August 1, more than 50,000 people have experienced the digital content. Check out our YouTube channel to watch individual sessions from the event. Select recorded sessions are also available on our Instagram IGTV Feed

Day 1: August 1, 2020

The event opened Saturday morning with a welcome address from AGF Executive Director Alexandria Harris and former “Glee” star, singer, and activist, Amber Riley. Followed shortly after Riley’s remarks was a tribute to civil rights legend and friend of AGF, the late Congressman John Lewis. 

The event’s sessions were divided into four main themes: Take Back Your Voice, Take Back Your Moment, Take Back Your Community, and Take Back Your Truth. Attendees watched panel discussions and engaged in breakout sessions where they had the opportunity to strategize how they would encourage their peers to vote on their campuses. Session topics ranged from allyship as an organizer to intersectional advocacy. Segments featured games like two truths and a lie and fast facts, of course, with a focus on voting. We also heard fun musical acts from Andrew Goodman Ambassador at Xavier University of Louisiana, Jaleel Ross, and danced it out with Deja Riley

Julio Aymel from James Madison University interviewed New England Patriots running back, James White, about the work student athletes can do to be active voices in democracy in a segment titled “Make Voting Cool Again.” We also saw appearances from Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA 43), Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX 16), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA 13) who spoke about voting accessibility and the challenges facing young voters. 

Event sessions also addressed information specifically related to voting and COVID-19. Check out this discussion with Dr. Padonda Webb, Assistant Director of Operations at North Carolina A&T State University, and Dr. Micah Griffin, Director of Health Programs at CUNY Kingsborough Community College, on How to Be Safe on Campus and At the Polls.

Day 2: August 2, 2020

The second day of Take Your Power Back Weekend served to engage our attendees in workshops where students listened to lightning talks and, with the facilitation of our partners at Democracy Works, played Votes and Ballots to strategize campus action plans. Conversations in the lightning talks centered on building coalitions on and off campus, best practices for digital organizing, the 2020 Census, and gaining administrator support for student voting. 

In these workshops led by our wonderful partners, students were able to practice critical thinking and team building skills. Allie Cashel from Democracy Works and Katya Ehresman from the Campus Vote Project’s Student Advisory Board, UT led a discussion on how students can collaborate virtually and emphasized the value in forming connections between student organizations and larger national leadership groups. Shifting organizing to digital spaces is important to continue practicing civic engagement and voter education in these socially distant times.

Closing Out the Conference

The overarching theme of “Take Your Power Back” was embedded into the entirety of the sessions. Students learned to reclaim and harness their power at the polls and beyond. It’s important students are aware of the impact they can have beyond election day. The weekend’s closing remarks took the form of a video from the AGF team, “Why Voting Is Important.” Staffers and organizers with The Andrew Goodman Foundation shared what voting means to them and captured the spirit of “Take Your Power Back.” Be sure to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages as we continue to highlight key moments from the successful Take Your Power Back Weekend! 

 About The Author

Nicole Jefferson is The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Communications Intern and a student at Yale College where she is majoring in Political Science.