New democracy center aims to educate and empower Savannah voters

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A new democracy center in Savannah is working to mobilize and educate voters ahead of election season.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Democracy Center is open to the public after its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. The center is in partnership with nonprofit The Harambee House and is being funded by the Center for Common Ground.

The project has been in development for more than a year. Organizers want to make sure citizens are prepared for not only the upcoming election but the 2022 election as well.

“We are going to mobilize people to get out and vote,” said Mildred McClain, executive director of Harambee House. “It is their responsibility as being a citizen of a democratic society.”

Leaders of the non-partisan democracy center want Savannahians to understand the power of their vote.

“If you do not participate in the political agenda — or let’s say the political table — you might end up on the menu as opposed to participating around the table as a stakeholder,” McClain said.

Named after a civil rights-era voting activist, the Fannie Lou Hamer Democracy Center hopes to help people recognize voter suppression practices and empower them to end them. 

The organization, led by people of color, also aims to focus its outreach to get more youth and minority voters involved in the political process. The democracy center will serve as “an information bank” to educate people on local, state and national policies. 

But organizers want to emphasize the importance of following the issues affecting us here at home. 

“We’re not pushing for any particular party or any particular politician,” said Dawud Shakaba, associate director of Harambee House. “We’re really zeroing in on the concerns of the community residents and then the bills that address those concerns and if there aren’t any bills out there, why not and let’s find someone who can write a bill.”

With changes to some voting requirements and processes under Georgia’s new election law, the democracy center wants to make sure people know their rights before heading to the polls.

“Just being there as a reference for the community to come in to know who the elected officials are, where to vote, where you can cast your absentee ballot, if you need a ride to vote,” said Ty’Ran Hanson, project coordinator of the Fannie Lou Hamer Democracy Center.

You can find the Fannie Lou Hamer Democracy Center inside The Harambee House on Habersham Street in Savannah.

Leaders said the center’s base inside the Harambee House is just a start. They hope to expand it to its own building over time.

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