Peace & Justice Institute Launches #Votes4All Public Workshops

Orlando — The Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, in partnership with a dozen community organizations, will present five free public workshops this spring that examine the role of gender and race in voting in Central Florida’s past.

Titled “#Votes4All: The Power to Create a More Perfect Democracy,” the series begins February 18 and concludes May 13 (see schedule attached); the public is invited to attend one or all of them. The series continues a program of community education inspired by the Ocoee Massacre of 1920, which was ignited after Mose Norman, an African-American man, tried to vote.

The new series, in a year that marks the centennial of both the massacre and of women’s suffrage in the United States, seeks both to illuminate the history of voter suppression in Central Florida as it relates to gender and race and to move toward reconciliation.

“We believe the power to create a more perfect democracy lies in the power of the truth and, as ever, in the power of the people,” notes Rachel Allen, director of the Peace and Justice Institute.

In 1920, following the ratification of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote, Ku Klux Klan leaders expressed vehement opposition to black women voting and staged marches threatening violence throughout cities including Orlando, just days before the November 1920 presidential election.

“In organizing this series, we sought to bring more attention and discussion to a difficult area in the history of voting rights,” notes Dr. Heather Bryson, a historian and Valencia College faculty member who helped craft the forum programs. The events will not only examine the racism of the era but will also highlight national and local heroines who persisted in their struggle to access the ballot.

The sessions aim to teach this “missing history” and also address the racism of the early women’s movement, acknowledge the historic threat of women in power, and provide an opportunity for truth and reconciliation. “In order to move forward, we must face the past,” notes Jennifer Tomlinson, Valencia College professor and PJI facilitator.

The #Votes4All forums were designed to reach all Central Florida residents. A theme of the project is the importance of every vote in local, state, and federal elections as an integral part of a thriving democracy. All events are free of charge, and voter registration will be available at every forum.

Click here to register for an upcoming #Votes4All workshop.

The series is supported by grants from Florida Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by community partners including the Alliance for Truth and Justice; the Dorothy Turner Johnson Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History; Kaley Square in Orlando; the Lakeshore Center of Ocoee; the League of Women Voters of Orange County and Seminole County, Florida; the RICHES program at the University of Central Florida; Seminole State College, Valencia College; and the Woman’s Club of Winter Park.

#Votes4All Series Schedule

  • Feb. 18 | Woman’s Club Winter Park: Doors open at 2 p.m.; program from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 27 | Valencia West Campus, Room 1-113: Doors open at 2 p.m.; program from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • March 24 | Kaley Square: Doors open at 6 p.m.; program from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
  • April 14 | Seminole State College: Doors open at 6 p.m.; program from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
  • May 13 | Lakeshore Center, Ocoee: Doors open  at 6 p.m.; program from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.