Potential voters, especially those from “underrepresented, disinvested, disenfranchised, and underserved communities” are invited to the first in a series of meet-and-greet sessions the Memphis Peoples Convention has planned to provide them with an opportunity to speak directly with some of the candidates lobbying for their support.
The campus of LeMoyne-Owen College will be the setting on Saturday (March 25) for the first session, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The meet-and-greet sessions are designed to better position potential voters for the Oct. 5 Memphis Municipal Election topped by a mayoral race with nearly a dozen declared candidates.
“Our efforts are about trying to ensure the people who are running for … offices adequately articulate their stance on the issues that are important to the people and adequately engage the people where they are,” said the Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher, founder of UPTheVote901 and co-founder of the latest version of the Memphis People’s Convention.
At a press conference on Wednesday in front of City Hall, Fisher and several community partners involved in organizing the upcoming Memphis People’s Convention 2023, shared developments and what is to come.
The first Memphis People’s Convention was held in 1991 as an effort to unify the African-American community around a consensus fearing “a potential splitting or diminishing of the vote of the majority of the citizens,” said Fisher.
In 2019, UPTheVote901 moved toward the “resurrection or the resurgence” of the convention. Since then, there have been Memphis People’s Summits for elected officials to “account for their time in office” and quarterly voter empowerment symposiums.
“All of our work is grounded in the Memphis People’s Agenda, which is the byproduct of over 2,200 surveys that were taken and compiled and codified into a series of aspirational policy proposals relative to the Memphis city budget, labor and wages, crime and public safety, housing and the environment, and education,” said Fisher.
Several months ago, interest intensified in a Memphis People’s Convention for this year. A major driver was a burgeoning number of declared and potential mayoral candidates.
That raised “the potentiality of yet again a diminished or what we might call a misrepresented vote of the majority of the citizens,” said Fisher.
Detailing efforts to make contact with the known mayoral candidates, Fisher said the outreach was continuing.
The tentative dates for the 2023 Memphis People’s Convention are July 14-16.
Planning is underway for more meet-and-greet sessions including April 8, Frazier, Raleigh; April 22, North Memphis; May 6, East Memphis and Hickory Hill; May 20, Whitehaven area.
“We want to try to encourage community members to come out and participate,” said Fisher.
“We also want to encourage candidates who are running for office to come out and allow themselves to be engaged by the community members in those respective areas. We hope and pray and trust and believe that this can lead to increased voter turnout in the municipal election and ultimately lead to better and more equitable representation.”
As for whether the Memphis People’s Convention will yield an endorsed candidate, Fisher said, “the ink is not dry on the entirety of the process. Our purpose at this point is to include as many organizations and individuals and campaigns that want to be a part of it as we possibly can to make sure that people are confident in whatever the result is.”
Noting that some of the involved community partners have 501(C)(3) status, Fisher said, “We’re not trying to violate anybody’s status. So, we might have to try to find some more creative ways to accomplish that (an endorsed consensus candidate).
“Ultimately, what we want is to make sure that the will of the majority of the citizens are enacted and we want as many voices at the table to try to plan out that process as we possibly can.”