Hi, I’m Dreama Caldwell. I’m the co-director of Down Home, alongside Todd Zimmer, who founded the organization. Some of you know me, and I know a lot of you. But even if we haven’t met, I hope you will listen to what I want to tell you today.
There is so much at stake in this year’s election. You may be told that every year– and that’s because voting matters and elections matter. But I want to talk about this particular year. 2022.
It’s been a long year and so many of us are worn out and tired. On the local level we are finishing up yet another year of far-right extremists shouting at our school boards and trying to ban books, at the federal level many of us felt the personal assault when our rights and privacy were stripped away from us by the Supreme Court.
Layered onto this, a lot of us are really struggling. Rent in rural North Carolina has tripled in some places, food and childcare and other necessities are chipping away at our paychecks that are simply just not increasing no matter how hard we work. We are sometimes skipping the refill on our prescriptions or avoiding preventative care because healthcare costs are so high. Our kids are going to schools where sometimes they have a permanent substitute teaching their classes all year long because our schools in North Carolina are so underfunded. Our water in places like Watauga County and Craven County is so dirty we wonder if it is safe to drink.
So we are tired. It’s easy to feel defeated. It’s easy to feel alone.
But at Down Home this year, what we got to see was a huge possibility. We got to see new local chapters launched from Appalachia down to the coast. In those chapters, we have hundreds of dedicated members and volunteers who have endorsed candidates and knocked on doors and phone banked and done everything they can possibly think of to build power and to change the tide in their community.
You know that saying “Sick and tired of being sick and tired?” Well, that’s me. That’s us.
That’s why I’m asking you to vote. I’m asking you to turn out for local candidates in rural North Carolina who will support efforts to control rent and build affordable housing: Candidates like our members running for County Commission– Sabrina Berry in Cabarrus County, Beth Sorrell in Ashe County, Anthony Peirce in Alamance County and HollyAnn Rogers in Person County.
I’m asking you to turn out for candidates who will make sure that North Carolina doesn’t roll back time on women’s rights or LGBTQ rights: Candidates like Ricky Hurtado, Keshia Sandidge, Diamond Staton Williams, Ray Jeffers, Mary Wills Bode, Sean Ewing, Ben Massey, Wendy Ella May, Terry Garrison, and Ron Osborne.
I’m asking you to turn out for Cheri Beasley. We don’t need her MAGA extremist opponent to represent us. We need her. I need her. She can and will show up for someone like me and the North Carolina I know and love.
It hasn’t always been that we have had options at the ballot, it hasn’t always been that people like me – like us– could vote, not to mention run for office. Our members have been fighting for real working class candidates; Candidates like Person County’s Keith Daye or Craven County’s Barbara Gaskins– people who KNOW what it’s like to struggle to pay the rent, and we have so many of them we CAN vote for now.
Thankfully there’s a long list of good choices in our communities. Our members have endorsed over 40 candidates this year across the state– in some places, it feels like we finally have options. In some places, it feels like we have options for the first time.
I always say that having these candidates on the ballot is a win and I really believe that but it’s thrilling for me to think that not only are they on the ballot, but they could actually WIN. Imagine what it will look like when Kelly White and Robert Fountain win. Imagine what it will feel like in Alamance County and Granville County to have their first Black sheriffs in office. Imagine what it will feel like to know WE did that.
Most of these races are going to boil down to just a couple votes. A few years ago, one of our members ran for office and she lost on a coin flip. She was a waitress and was running against a wealthy doctor and they tied at the polls, but she lost on that coin flip. Imagine if we could have turned out just one more vote.
That’s why I’m asking you to not just vote– I know you will– but to commit to finding three more friends or family members to vote with you. Think of them now– what are their names, those three people? Who are they?
Can you call them tonight? Can you write them an email? Can you tell them why you are voting and ask them if they will join you? Can you offer them a ride to the polls? Can you grab a cup of coffee after?
Early voting is still open right now. It’s open until this Saturday, November 5th. Even if you are not registered to vote, you can go to an early voting site– any one in your county– and register there the same day you vote.
And election day is November 8th. That’s the last day you can vote and the last day you can mail in your ballot if you are voting by mail.
So please vote. You are voting for yourself and your children. But you are also voting for the rest of us.
At Down Home, we don’t leave people behind. We don’t always agree and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we don’t give up on each other. We also don’t leave any tools on the table– we pick them all up. Voting is your tool right now.
Come on in, y’all. We have work to do.