Share Your Story
Was your community affected by the 2010 process? How do the current lines affect you? Do you have specific concerns about how the new lines will be drawn? Tell us your redistricting story!
Antonious NeSmith spoke with passion at the August 11th S.C. Senate Redistricting Public Hearing, as he outlined his concerns about the 7th Congressional district. Citing case law, relevant census data, and personal connection to the Andrews and Hemingway communities, NeSmith pleaded with Chair Luke Rankin and the other members of the committee to not dilute the black vote. The practice of “cracking” is a common way to split the power of a voting block; NeSmith noticed that the small community of Andrews, which is 63% black, is cut by Congressional Districts 6 and 7. Further, he noted the overall make-up of District 7 is overwhelmingly white, which does not give voice to the 28% non-white voters in the area. He suggests including more of Williamsburg county, specifically Hemingway, in order to create a more equitable district.
One big concern is that elected officials, and particularly Congressional leaders, are not responsive to the small, rural, and often poor communities that they are to represent. These communities have been petitioning for basic health, education, and infrastructure needs every single year. Legislatures are less responsive to the needs of all of their constituents if they don’t really need any moderate, independent, or swing support to win an election. When lines are drawn to guarantee the safety of an incumbent of either party, voters start to lose faith in the process.
NeSmith cares deeply about his community and loves to advocate for equal protection under the law. He has worked on voting rights projects and political campaigns including Elizabeth Warren’s presidential bid; now he is turning his attention to the redistricting process to make sure everyone in his community gets a representative that fights for them. A citizen with a strong voice, deep understanding of the issue, and love for advocacy, Antonious NeSmith represents the power of the people.
As a former City Council member, Angela Y. Douglas knows Chester County. She calls it the “Middle-C,” the I-77 corridor between Charlotte and Columbia. Ms. Douglas spoke with passion about this often forgotten area to the House Redistricting committee on September 13, 2021. It was a short meeting, lasting less than a half hour, and the poor turnout has some questioning the committee’s decision to limit virtual testimony during this process. Still, as one of a handful of speakers, Ms. Douglas wanted to draw the lawmakers attention to what she feels are the neglected, rural, underfunded areas. “There are so many Chesters,” in South Carolina, with small, diverse communities encompassing almost 85% of the state.
The lack of access to the internet means that not only are schools suffering during the pandemic, but also that the census data might have missed these folks yet again, Douglas commented. She drew the committee’s attention to District 29, which pulls in 523 people from her county. Her frustration was evident; “We get pinched. We get pinched so much.” She highlights the “game of political numbers,” that would allow for her community to be parceled out without having its own considerations.
Douglas ended her testimony with a promise to continue to fight for the Chesters of South Carolina, no matter how long it takes. Her commitment to the community extends beyond testimony as she is also a founding member of the Rosa M. Douglas Scholarship Foundation, created to give back to young women along the corridor. While it often seems the odds are stacked against the average citizen in the redistricting process, with the help of community advocates like Angela Douglas, they just may stand a fighting chance.
Donna Moore Wesby
Meet Donna Moore Wesby, founder of Umoja Village in Aiken, South Carolina. Umoja is a nonpartisan coalition of black and African-Americans committed to unity, community, and empowerment. Founded in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, the grassroots organization brings together the best and the brightest in all areas of life to unify and rise as one. On Thursday, August 12, 2021, Mrs. Wesby gave powerful testimony to the Senate Redistricting Committee, urging those present to do the right thing. She outlined with clarity three requests:
- maintain geographic compactness and other apolitical criteria such as municipalities,
- utilize diverse nonpartisan input from community leaders, and lastly,
- to submit proposed maps for public input.
Wesby’s passion for her community is palpable; she embodies leadership with her courageous and thoughtful testimony. After learning how important redistricting will be for the future of South Carolina, Moore sought out ways to engage her community. She decided to participate in the Southern Coalition for Social Justice CROWD training program, which gave her the tools and confidence to speak out. Giving testimony takes work; hopefully, it will pay off in ways that lead to fair maps for all.
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