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State of Our Democracy 2023: Recap + Next Steps

Cleveland VOTES team standing shoulder-to-shoulder smiling
The Cleveland VOTES team enjoying State of Our Democracy [Photo by SunnyBlu Art Agency]

To those who attended our annual State of Our Democracy (SOOD) event on June 21, thank you! We enjoyed the opportunity to present updates on the organization and upcoming initiatives as we continue our ongoing partnerships. The theme this year was Faces of Democracy, and those who contribute to the immense work happening in civics on a daily basis. We are fortunate to be surrounded by amazing democracy builders that expand across the Cleveland ecosystem and appreciate the constant support we receive.

Our Senior Strategist, Lique Gates, gave a quick overview of upcoming programming, Strategic Plan updates, and collaborative opportunities happening within Cleveland VOTES.

These programs include:

The Democracy Collective - On June 23 we announced the launch of our inaugural incubator, the Democracy Collective (DemCo), a 9-month cohort that is looking to prioritize advancing equitable civic engagement through a co-learning experience. In this program, 12-15 participants will have the opportunity to engage with a facilitator, as they implement a curriculum designed to provide tools as they build community. Recognizing the challenges that come with the decades of structural impediments, intentional barriers, systemic inequities, and a disempowering mindset that leave the residents of our community hopeless and discouraged by the lack of progress for those most marginalized by these conditions, we are actively looking at ways to curate space for conversations that contribute to growth. We will start accepting applications to the cohort on July 13. Check out our social pages and website for the latest DemCo updates.

Civics Unfiltered + Seasonal Civics - Seasonal Civics and Civics Unfiltered are dialogue-based event series that Cleveland VOTES will be initiating this summer. Their focus will be on creating bridges between the diverse perspectives that community members have surrounding topics of civic engagement, political action, community needs, and more.

A woman gives a presentation
Senior Strategist Lique Gates presenting CV's upcoming programming [Photo by SunnyBlu Art Agency]

Creative Activism - Over the next 18 months, CV will assess, develop, and implement a creative activism strategy aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge of Cleveland’s civic culture. We are looking for input from our community partners as we highlight the robust creative ecosystem.

Equitable Civic Engagement Fund - The ECEF provides grants to nonprofit organizations committed to educating, connecting and empowering voting-age residents in the Greater Cleveland area. The 2023 grantees were announced during SOOD. Those grantees that attended SOOD received special recognition. You can visit the list of 2023 ECEF Grantees here.

Ten adults stand shoulder-to-shoulder after receiving awards
Some of the 2023 ECEF Grantees who attended SOOD [Photo by SunnyBlu Art Agency]

With a special election approaching us in August, then the general election soon after, we also shared some key campaigns and initiatives that we’re involved with and explained how attendees can help:

  • One Person, One Vote is a citizen-driven, grassroots, non-partisan coalition representing millions of Ohio voters that have come together to protect the sacred principle of one person, one vote and preserve majority rule in Ohio. We must defeat Issue 1 in August so we can restore reproductive freedom in November. You can learn more about the Vote No in August campaign here.

  • HB 458 passed in January of this year and contains many changes that hinder election accessibility. It is now a requirement to have an unexpired Ohio State ID in order to vote. Please join CV in sharing the news with your community to limit people being turned away from their polling locations. And tell them that VoteRiders can help them get a valid ID in time for the Special Election.

  • The People’s Budget Cleveland is an initiative that will help allocate 2% of the city’s annual budget to allow community members to vote on various things. Cleveland VOTES and several of our partners helped collect signatures during the signature collection stage (which ended this week). You can get PB status updates by signing up for their newsletter and/or following them on social media.

  • Educating for Ohio’s Future is a statewide collective of organizations and a growing coalition of Ohio students, parents, and teachers who are organizing to pass legislation for an updated social studies curriculum in Ohio's K-12 public schools. You can learn more about their shared campaign here.

During SOOD we also emphasized that–as with any challenging work–there should be time set aside to reset. Distributing copies of Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey and offering a healing station were quick ways to offer techniques on how we can insert rest periods into our everyday lives. SOOD also served as an opportunity to introduce new organizations to each other and uplift the intersections in all of our work.

Three women listening to a man talking
Yugan facilitating a healing session [Photo by SunnyBlu Art Agency]

Finally, near the end of the event there was a raffle for gift cards from three local Black-owned businesses that heavily support CV. They are Kafela, the Roaming Biscuit, and Third Space Reading Room. We encourage all of our comrades to give them a visit! We would also like to thank our venue The Elliot for providing such a lovely space.

In power,

Cleveland VOTES

You can review the full State of Our Democracy presentation here. And you can view the video we made with local changemakers below (edited by SunnyBlu Art Agency).

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