Alfre Woodard, Sunny Hostin & More Stars Join Anti-Voter Suppression Campaign with Striking 'And Still I Vote' Portraits
As the 2020 presidential race continues through the primary season, Emmy Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard, The View‘s Sunny Hostin, Orange Is the New Black‘s Danielle Brooks and other stars are speaking out about voter suppression.
The campaign is led by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in an effort to push back against voter suppression efforts in historically disenfranchised communities across the country. Woodard, Hostin and Brooks joined Debbie Allen, Michael Ealy and Michael K. Williams, among others, in a series of portraits about the importance of voting.
According to a news release, the national call-to-action will “spotlight tactics some government officials use to erect barriers to the voting booth.”
The campaign launched this week ahead of the crucial “Super Tuesday” vote this week and leading up to the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, on Saturday.
Woodard tells PEOPLE that voting barriers are a “crisis.”
“Whether you are a celebrity, public figure, or a hard-working American, being an engaged citizen is all of our responsibilities,” Woodard says. “If we want to ensure our freedoms, we must do the work. Freedom ain’t free. It has to be fought for and protected every day.”
Woodard’s familial ties to voting rights date back to the post-Civil War era, when she tells PEOPLE her great-grandfather Alec was “registered to vote soon after breaking the chains of enslavement.”
“I do not yield from people who stand idly on the sidelines and watch progress slip away,” Woodard says. “My parents raised an engaged citizen — a citizen who feels responsible not only for her own family but all the families around her. So, of course, I go to work every day trying to do whatever I can to make this country better and today I am proud to support the ‘And Still I Vote’ campaign.”
The campaign’s portraits were shot by Andre D. Wagner and look to help spread awareness and help fight against voter suppression — an intimidation or misinformation tactic or other kind of obstacle put in place to mitigate turnout in a given community, often those for people of color.
“They try to silence me … they try to erase me,” the celebrities take turns saying in a video spot (above) that’s coupled with the photos, before they end by reciting the campaign’s slogan.
“These anti-democratic efforts most typically target people of color, people with limited English proficiency, young voters, people with disabilities, and other groups historically excluded from our political process,” the campaign’s news release states. “‘And Still I Vote’ will highlight stories of resistance and resilience from historically disenfranchised communities, while providing practical tools to fight back.”
Already this year, cases of voter suppression have been reported.
Most recently, lawyers for former President Barack Obama sent a cease-and-desist letter to a pro-Donald Trump group last week to demand that they stop airing an anti-Joe Biden ad in predominantly black communities in South Carolina that falsely used Obama’s words out of context to seem like he was saying Biden and other Democrats would take advantage of black voters.
An Obama spokeswoman told PEOPLE in a statement that the ad “is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers.”
“Our vote is our voice. Yet far too many in this country are actively plotting to silence our voice and block our ability to vote,” Vanita Gupta, The Leadership Conference’s president and CEO, said in a separate statement. “‘And Still I Vote’ is a rallying cry of democratic defiance, uniting communities in the common struggle to protect and preserve our voting rights and democracy. They’ll try to block our path to the ballot box. And still we’ll fight. And still we’ll persist. And still we’ll vote.”