Howard’s Women Volleyball Team Leads Voter Registration Initiative

The Howard University Women’s Volleyball team launched their own voter registration Instagram challenge entitled “HBCUs All In,” on July 9. Photo courtesy of Howard University Media Relations and Sports Information.

By Tiffany Hunt, Howard University News Service

Washington —With Election Day closing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial protests, voter registration has become a popular and important topic. 

The Howard University Women’s Volleyball team launched their own voter registration Instagram challenge entitled “HBCUs All In,” on July 9. Since the launch, the #HBCUSALLIN challenge has successfully registered 57 teams to vote, across various collegiate athletic conferences. 

Prior to the kick-off of the “HBCUs All In” challenge, the team leaders of the five-time, back to back, MEAC Volleyball champions, Fola Wilson a senior from Minneapolis, and junior Ana Williams from Baker, Louisiana, made it very clear that the reason they decided to start their team’s voter registration initiative was a direct result of the death of George Floyd. “We started this challenge a few weeks after the start of the George Floyd protests occurring around the country,” said Wilson.

Wilson and Williams got the inspiration for creating a voter registration initiative from their assistant coach Ciara Jones after seeing Big Ten schools implement it at their prospective institutions. “Fola, and I decided to start the challenge for HBCUs as it would allow our voices as a community of color to have a reverberating effect for change,” said Williams.

The main goal of the challenge is to ensure that every HBCU athletic program is fully registered to vote. “Our hope is to get more young African Americans registered to vote as this gives us a vital part in the political process and the power to advocate for change,” said Williams.

The black voter turnout in the last presidential election in 2016 decreased immensely compared to the presidential election in 2012. The U.S. Census Bureau data reported that “voter turnout increased to 65.3 percent for non-Hispanic whites, but decreased to 59.6 percent for non-Hispanic blacks in the 2016 presidential election. This compared to 2012, when more non-Hispanic blacks (66.6 percent) voted than non-Hispanic whites (64.1 percent) for the first time in this series.”

The volleyball team launched their challenge by firstly ensuring that their entire team was fully registered to vote. From there, the volleyball team took to Instagram to announce that their team was 100 percent registered to vote, and to nominate the Howard University Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Team to get fully registered to vote along with them. HU’s volleyball team then started communicating offline to other Howard teams and other teams throughout the MEAC and SWAC conferences to join in with them on their challenge.

Now the challenge has gone beyond the MEAC and SWAC conferences with a total of 57 collegiate teams registered to vote amongst 12 collegiate conferences, five independent teams, and three teams who’s conferences are unknown.

College athletes aren’t the only ones encouraging people across the United States to go out and vote. Celebrities, professional athletes, and other high profile public figures are also doing the same. 

One such example is, the “When We All Votenon-profit, nonpartisan organization that is co-chaired by Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw, which was launched in 2018. The organization helps participants register to vote, pledge to get three others to participate, “exercise their power” and make the pledge to be a voter. The organization’s website even offers a live countdown of time left until this year’s election day.

There is also “More Than A Vote” an organization that is made up of black athletes and artists, led by NBA star LeBron James, launched on June 23, 2020, with their main goal being to combat voter suppression.

The voter registration season will soon be coming to a close with deadlines across the country ranging from Oct. 4 to Nov. 4.