It’s been exhausting, fighting all the wars that Republicans have waged against Texans — on women’s rights and women’s health care, on children’s health care and public education, even on our basic constitutional right to vote!
As we head to the polls, the TCDP and the Black Austin Democrats are hosting The New Texas Equity Alliance Celebration on October 30 (5-7 p.m.) at the Carver Museum (1165 Angelina Street) to honor leaders who have fought so hard against voter suppression in Texas.
Jeffrey Travillion — a long-time Democrat, NAACP and ACC leader — is one of the organizers of this event. In a lunch break from his job as the systems engineering division manager (“business process consulting on steroids,” as he puts it) in the Public Works Department of the City of Austin, he enlightened us on the Alliance and the upcoming celebration.
QUESTION: For those who may not know, tell us about the New Texas Equity Alliance. What exactly is it?
TRAVILLION: Basically, it is a group of civil rights organizations and attorneys that have pledged to work together to address the needs of people who have been forced to live in poverty. The way resources are distributed to people affects their lives — whether or not they have the support they need to receive an education, receive health care. How can you say you’re “pro-life” when you take more than $5 billion from public education and refuse to fund Medicaid and Medicare?
You’re not creating a foundation for life with those policies; you’re creating a foundation for poverty. The Alliance is a multi-ethnic group, but our interests are the same in the community. We will not be divided and conquered. We will address the culture of poverty as it relates to people, not one type of people.
QUESTION: Now tell us about the October 30th event. Who is being honored?
TRAVILLION: We will honor the outstanding leaders who fought against the voter suppression legislation — Voter ID, registration restrictions — and the redistricting maps. We are honoring the courage and commitment of the attorneys and the legislative people who led the fight against Congressional redistricting and Voter ID. These were selfless folks who stood up for us, so we should help and support them.
QUESTION: Talk a bit about these voter suppression efforts that were clearly designed to silence minority voters, most of whom traditionally vote Democratic. Why is this happening all these years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
TRAVILLION: Number one, the business community and the Tea Party have the Texas legislature locked up, so they can do anything they want to do. There’s nobody with a conscience sitting at the controls. Our original victories were by the skin of our teeth. You still find people who are trying to win the Civil War, and that’s unfortunate.
The human story of voter suppression is the story of my mother. She taught school for 40 years in a Southern state. She has diabetes now, is legally blind and a double amputee. How does she get that photo-ID voter card? Public policies are put in place that hurt real people. People need to understand that. Government should be in place to solve problems. Since Republicans in Texas are winning, they don’t want to add anybody else to the mix.
QUESTION: For the time being, the courts have saved us, but Attorney General Abbott hopes to persuade the Supreme Court to chip away at the Voting Rights Act. What can the rest of us do?
TRAVILLION: We need to really double our efforts and commitment to solving the problems of poverty. Congressional redistricting affects the ability to bring resources into the communities. The four proposed new congressional districts were all Republican, and ultimately they are all votes against addressing the needs of people living in poverty.
We’ve got to maintain our commitment to moving people beyond poverty, to working together to build a majority that will support public education, health care needs and other issues that cause people to living in poverty. We’ve got to be problem solvers; we’ve got to be the party of LBJ.