Power Coalition for Equity and Justice is a group of community-based organizations that work together to educate and empower voters across Louisiana. Through their voter engagement and community organizing work, the Power Coalition seeks to unify community voices into a stronger, more cohesive force that can successfully advocate for an agenda of shared values and issues.
Their work includes listening sessions, voter engagement, policy advocacy and leadership development. The work is centered on creating spaces where community members can come together to lift up the issues that impact them, and then connect those issues to local, regional and national resources.
The Power Coalition’s founder, president and CEO, Ashley Shelton, started the organization six years ago.
“It is imperative that we give historically disenfranchised people a voice,” she said. “Power Coalition was designed to reconnect people to their voice, their vote and their power.”
One of the Power Coalition’s many objectives is to increase civic engagement across Louisiana, with a focus on communities of color. Over the past few years, it has played a critical role in lifting the voice and power of those communities at the voting booth.
As evidence of such work, during the 2021 Louisiana legislative session, the SPLC Action Fund was honored to partner with the group in successfully passing two pieces of legislation aimed at expanding voter access. Working with the Power Coalition and the SPLC Action Fund, state Rep. Edward “Ted” James, was able to pass Act 22, which increases the amount of time that voters have in the voting booth from three minutes to six minutes.
Under previous law, voters could be asked to leave the voting booth within three minutes, regardless of whether they had completed the ballot. This put some populations, including the elderly, people who speak English as a second language or those with learning disabilities at risk of not completing their ballot. The other key initiative was the passing of Act 365, sponsored by former state Rep. Fred Jones, which increases the early voting period from seven days to 11 days.
These are remarkable legislative victories, especially in a year that saw legislatures across the country pass voter suppression laws.
Not only does the Power Coalition influence communities throughout Louisiana with its policy work, but Shelton and her magnificent team have also been the catalyst for uplift and change in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The group has been on the front lines of the hurricane response, amplifying the work of community partners. It has distributed over $150,000 in grant money to grassroots organizers and mutual aid groups on the ground in the first week of hurricane recovery.
“We are proud of our ability to regrant dollars to the community and know that there is a grassroots infrastructure that has been built so that we are responsive to community needs immediately,” said Shelton. “We are steeped in community, so we know who these people and organizations are.”
Shelton recently authored an op-ed published by Essence – On Hurricane Ida, COVID-19, and trauma: Resilience cannot be a permanent state – urging policymakers to provide federal resources to directly impacted people.
The Power Coalition is now leading the charge on redistricting in Louisiana. They have hired three redistricting fellows to work across the state to educate communities, institutions and legislators on the principles of political redistricting. Their redistricting goal is to create equitable and competitive political districts so that people can be represented by legislators who will advocate on behalf of the community’s best interests.
The group continues to be the gold standard for civic engagement of grassroots organizations across the great state of Louisiana. The SPLC Action Fund is proud to support their efforts and have them as true community partners. For more information on Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, visit powercoalition.org.
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Terry Landry is policy director for the SPLC Action Fund in Louisiana.
Photo at top: Power Coalition’s founder, president and CEO, Ashley Shelton.