Mobilizing the Black Vote in 2020
When Yindra Dixon landed in Las Vegas in July 2019, she had no idea what the future would hold. But the path laid before her was one of opportunity and the culmination of a decade of work and relationships built through her persistence for community empowerment. Challenge Accepted.
Today, Mrs. Dixon is the owner of Blackbox Consulting Group which she started in 2009 with her former business partner, Kenya (Pierce) Minott. The legacy of their work would inform the fabric of the community engagement she champions to this day.
When we sat down with Yindra, she was calm and humble as she spoke about her work and her goals. “My first task was to assess the political landscape with a racial equity lens,” she remembers being tasked by Nevada Alliance, a donor table that helps to fundraise for Democratic organizations and programs. The goal was to ensure that Nevada was able to maintain the Democratic gains it had made in the last few election cycles. She led a series of listening sessions with elected leaders and leaders of progressive organizations on the front lines today including PLAN Action, Make It Work Nevada and the NAACP, identified opportunities and created a strategic plan. “Through that process, I realized that a key missing piece was a sustainable civic engagement organization whose primary purpose was to engage and mobilize black voters.”
In February, she started MPower 360 (http://mpower360.org) which, upon printing of this issue, will have over 30 employees and the capacity to make 30,000 calls per day to inform voters and get them out to vote. Systemic change requires systemic solutions. “It was important for me to be able to scale to a level that could be impactful across the country and leverage my relationships with leaders at all levels of politics, from grass roots organizations to national donors to leaders in Congress.”
Most recently, MPower 360 launched the Black Power Summer School, an eight-week community education program focused on turning anger into action and creating a space for black people and allies to develop solutions from their lived experience to address criminal justice reform, healthcare, education and economic disparities. The MPower 360 website boasts that, “Power starts with your vote”, and wants to inform, educate and mobilize black voters to vote, advocate, implement and repeat.
But voting is just the beginning, through Blackbox Consulting Group, Yindra has a hand in helping transform organizations, communities and leaders. She is focused on providing intersectional data analysis so that policies, solutions and interventions for some of the greatest challenges of our generation can be expertly resolved in digestible chunks. Blackbox organized the Nevada Black Legislative Caucus COVID-19 Task Force (recoverblacknv.org) whose goal is to bring together the resources and leadership necessary to respond to the needs of the black community who have sustained a disproportionate burden from the pandemic. She also leads the Civic Participation and Social Justice Pillar as a part of the West Las Vegas Promise Neighborhood, a federal grant program administered by Nevada Partners, Inc., whose goal is to change the outcomes for communities fraught with generational poverty. Blackbox Consulting Group is also an affiliate of Full Circle Strategies and will provide HeartSpeak™ certified trainers to help leaders build and sustain an equitable work culture through research, training, and coaching. Having this direct impact on transformative and restorative organizational development is another pivotal piece to achieving true racial equity and inclusion. Blackbox Consulting Group provides policy analysis, campaign services, racial equity and inclusion training using the HeartSpeak™ framework as well as organizational and leadership development.
“There are several things that we are asking people to do this year: register and vote, and complete the 2020 Census.” People seldom realize the impact that completing the Census has on driving billions of federal dollars into communities to make the changes they seek like economic development, better schools and access to high quality healthcare. And Blackbox is already working on redistricting, the process by which political district maps are drawn based on Census results. Her Blackbox analysts are developing ways to inform the maps with intelligence that has not been used in the past. Her Policy to Progress initiative focuses on using model legislation from other jurisdictions to build coalitions to move progress forward. Similarly, she is identifying leaders throughout Nevada to fill the hundreds of vacancies on board and commissions to help implement the policies and programs that are intended as a result of legislative changes. “My eye is always on diversity of perspectives which is why intersectionality plays such an important role in my analytical philosophy.”
Her passion project is the Barriers to Freedom Program which is supported by Sawabona Foundation, a Nevada Community Foundation fund. The Barriers to Freedom program started as an activity for Black Power Summer School. The concept was an event called “Stop Stopping Me” which intended to drive people to a DMV location and provide a brake light clinic and pay fees for IDs, licenses and car registration. “As we were looking for people to participate in the event, I was put in touch with a social worker from the Public Defenders Office. She connected me to social workers at most of the jails and courts as well as the Las Vegas Recovery Center. Through those conversations I discovered a niche.”
There are few organizations that consistently help people in the criminal justice system with bus passes, IDs, vital records and pay the corresponding expenses. When she inquired about the cost, she learned that IDs cost about $7. “People are being kept from moving on with their lives because of $7. For so many people that is a Starbucks run. $7 is keeping people from enrolling in school, getting a job, opening a bank account, because you need an ID to do any of that. It was a no-brainer.” The Barriers to Freedom program hopes to help hundreds of people re-emerge into society unencumbered.
We asked her if she had any final thoughts. “This movement is about all hands on deck. There is a place for everyone. There are no people who don’t need help, no energy we can’t use to move the needle for ourselves, our community and future generations. You will often hear me say, I’m just trying to free my people. Freedom is still my motivation.” The moment has come for her to actualize her intention to “free her people” from the injustices, oppression and discrimination of generations of systemic and institutionalized racism in Nevada and beyond. Challenge Accepted.