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This week, the Black Voters Matter Fund is taking to Louisiana streets with a bus and a cause—registering as many new voters as possible. Thousands of formerly incarcerated people are eligible to register following a new bill signed into state law in 2018, and the organization wants to spread the word about the change.

The new law went into effect on March 1, and applies to anyone with a past felony conviction who is off probation or parole, who has been on parole for at least five years, or who is on probation and hasn’t received any further convictions. 

Many of those affected will be eligible to vote as soon as October 12 of this year—a change they say finally gives them a voice. All together, it’s estimated that 36,000 to 40,000 people have had their voting rights restored—registering them all is an ambitious goal, but volunteers from Black Voters Matter and Voices of the Experienced (VOTE) are excited to take on the challenge.

The eight-city bus tour is already off to a strong start…

Here’s a look at the full itinerary:

Check out our full list of stops for our voter registration tour with @Blackvotersmtr June 30 – July 3 throughout Louisiana! Tell people on probation and parole that THEY CAN VOTE! RSVP links below! #FIPRising#40KRising#WhyIVotepic.twitter.com/YdXMVyPqoA

June 28, 2019

Dewanna Leviere, the founder of the transitional housing facility Deliverance in Me, gave an emotional speech about the cycle that keeps many women from being able to reintegrate with the community after serving their time.

VOTE Lafayette member Dewanna Louviere is the founder of Deliverance in Me, a transitional housing facility for women coming home from prison. She�s one of the many heroes out here today. Catch us & @BlackVotersMtr at 220 Willow St. til 4! Don�t sleep on #votingrights#FIPRisingpic.twitter.com/73rL8pNvh7

July 1, 2019

Other organizers are using their experiences in prison to help empower other formerly incarcerated people. Consuela spent 22 years in prison and was released only two and a half years ago. While she won’t be eligible to vote in the upcoming election, she’s passionate about educating other formerly incarcerated people about their rights. She’s been instrumental in organizing the current tour.

�Consuela is an organizer with V.O.T.E. She spent 22 years in prison and since returning home she has been committed to helping empower other formerly incarcerated people and helping them restore their voting rights. She organized our rally today in Lafayette! It was great!�� pic.twitter.com/2fdos3fKra

July 1, 2019

It’s easy to see the joy on the faces of newly registered voters—especially those who have never voted before!

Day 2 of the #40KRising voter registration tour. We�re in Lafayette Parish, where Lionel Dugas started the process of registering to vote for the first time in his life. After spending 8.5 years in prison, he is �hoping to get a whole new start back to [his] life� pic.twitter.com/rVKJIB3kbL

July 1, 2019

One of the first stops was Opelousas, Louisiana—a small, rural community that made national headlines recently after the arson of three black churches. It’s also the site of what’s come to be known as the Opelousas Massacre, when 200 black citizens were killed after demanding the right to vote for the party of their choice.

Despite this painful history, the gathering this week was one of joy. As Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown says, “This work isn’t just about voting, it’s about lifting the spirits of people!”

Of course, none of this would be possible without a team of hard-working volunteers.

Kenya of Alexandria votes �in order to make a change.� She�s one of the many people who has been helping us register folks to vote during this #voterregistration tour with @BlackVotersMtr. Why do you vote? #FIPRising#40KRising#WhyIVote#Blackvotersmatterpic.twitter.com/Z43FCEHhiF

July 1, 2019

Meet our Alabama and Tennessee state coordinators. We had such a rich, full and exciting day today! #FIPRising#40KRising �� @BlackVotersMtr@chanceelundy@SelsiEnt@shessoorganized@tmokh294pic.twitter.com/U6NEUtnLQm

July 1, 2019

Day 1 of our voter registration tour w/ @FIPVOTENOLA and @BlackVotersMtr is a wrap! Thanks Baton Rouge! Next stops tmrw are Lafayette: 10am-4pm, 200 W. Willow St, Opelousas: 1:30pm-4pm, 108 N Main St., Alexandria: 12-6pm, 2800 South Mcarthur Dr. #FIPRising#40K@dberrygannettpic.twitter.com/yVZq1ISMxq

July 1, 2019

Anddddd day one of our voter registration tour w/ @BlackVotersMtr is a wrap! Thanks to all in Baton Rouge who came. Next stops tmrw are Lafayette: 10am-4pm, 200 W. Willow St, Opelousas: 1:30pm-4pm, 108 N Main St., Alexandria: 12-6pm, 2800 South Mcarthur Dr. #FIPRising#whyIvotepic.twitter.com/EjQSXX2SjQ

July 1, 2019

To get the word out, they’re holding voter registration events in the places they’re needed most—setting up shop in the parking lots of probation and parole offices and letting visitors know they have the right to vote.

We don�t wait for our folks to come to us..we go to them. Voter reg party in Alexandria, La in the parking lot of the Probation and Parole. We want our folks to know that even if they are on probation or parole they have the right to vote. We turning it up in the parking lot! pic.twitter.com/vRTwHiLz9N

July 1, 2019

Voting doesn’t just affect adults—the decisions we make at the ballot box affect our entire families. That’s why Black Voters Matter makes an effort to make all of their events family friendly, engaging young activists and helping children feel engaged in their communities.

And of course, what fun is a rally without a little music?

Like father like son. In Louisiana they train them young to become music masters. This photo is from our FIP voter registration rally in Baton Rouge. @BlackVotersMtr@FIPVOTENOLA#FIPRising#40KRisingpic.twitter.com/qEfla54vCc

July 1, 2019

Here LaTosha is spreading the love in Shreveport, LA…

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She’s hitting the streets to raise awareness…

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And, of course, she’s turning every event into a cause for celebration!

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In an email to our team, she writes, “The woman with the blue hair name is Shawanda. She was just finished her prison sentence after many years and is finally off paper as of April 7th.”

“After Shawanda completed her application she told us ( with water in her eyes) that she felt so good. That she hasn’t had the opportunity in years and she feels happy and is very grateful that we are doing this work. She said she feels the love and feels seen.”

For more updates on the tour and the work she’s doing to empower black voters, follow LaTosha Brown on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support the Black Voters Matter fund by donating today.

Orion Rodriguez

Orion Rodriguez (he/they) is a nonbinary writer, artist, and activist. His writing has been published in Salon, Lightspeed Magazine, Inhabitat, and elsewhere. He is currently working on "The Life and Times...