In February 2021, the coldest and most volatile winter weather in 30 years knocked out power and water systems across the South, including Fulton, AR, where many were left without water for up to six days after their pipes froze. For many residents, waiting for help wasn’t new. Seeking change for the underserved and under-resourced community, Visibility Outreach Touch Engage South Arkansas (VOTE SoAR) was born to catalyze citizen-led activism and support community members in embracing a greater role in problem solving and channeling their life experiences into leadership opportunities. A primary goal is advocating for overdue investment in drinking water infrastructure to upgrade regional systems to withstand the modern challenges of the climate change crisis. VOTE SoAR is working to power a community movement for better civic governance with education, voter mobilization, and turnout to elect more progressive-minded leaders who will value people over profits.
Led by founder and executive director Sylvia Brown, VOTE SoAR’s constituency-building work includes door-to-door political education campaigns and community events. A fiscally sponsored project of the Southern Vision Alliance, VOTE SoAR is also active in ensuring that Hempstead County communities have safe and clean water management infrastructure. Organized loosely as a community collective, VOTE SoAR’s activities sometimes extend to neighboring Lafayette and Nevada counties. The group has hosted a Community Water Academy, where, over two evenings, community members learned from experts on the intricacies of water treatment, management, and affordability; assisted Black Futures Lab with the 2022 Black Census, gathering information about the diversity of issues affecting Black residents of Hempstead County; and accepted and completed a contract to gather signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative in Lafayette, Hempstead, and Nevada counties. Using five canvassers over a six-week door-to-door education campaign, VOTE SoAR helped to meet the threshold to qualify for a citizen ballot initiative.
For more information:
Budzinski Introduces Rebuilt Rural America Act – U.S. Representative Nikki Budzinski, June 2023
Sylvia Brown, Founder and Executive Director
Environmental Justice Concerns
Incinerator/Dumping/Landfill, Sewage/Sewage Treatment
Art Activism, Community Land Trusts/Land Conservation, Community Organizing, Elevation or Relocation of Homes, Green Infrastructure, Nature-Based Solutions, Policy Reform, Renewable Energy, Risk mapping and/or monitoring e.g. flooding/contaminants etc
501c3 Tax Deductible