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Civil rights activist Chris Brown, Kenton Democrats join to create CANDID, to engage minorities in voting

Local civil rights activist Chris Brown and the Kenton County Democratic Party have joined forces to launch a new civic engagement initiative to increase diversity outreach and voter education efforts across Northern Kentucky.

Community Activists of Northern Kentucky Democrats for Inclusion and Diversity (CANDID) aims to engage minority and disenfranchised communities in the region to encourage participation in the democratic process through voter outreach and education to ensure all voices are heard and are given a seat at the table.

Brown, a native of Elsmere, is well-known for her community outreach efforts. She recently organized a string of peaceful marches in Northern Kentucky including the ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot March’ through her hometown 12 days after the death at police hands of George Floyd.

The deaths of Floyd and the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police was a turning point for Brown and she knew it was time for the communities to be given a voice.

“We’re in a moment that demands that voices be heard and now is the time to act,” said Brown.

“Getting people registered to vote, improving the diversity of city councils and school boards and building understanding among the races, that is key right now.”

At the same time, Natalie MacDonald, Vice Chair of the Kenton County Democratic Party was establishing a diversity and inclusion task force; inspired by Brown’s activism, the two joined forces and went to work organizing the framework for CANDID.

MacDonald said the Democratic Party in Northern Kentucky has long seen the need for more community engagement and taking more concrete steps to ensure membership reflects the communities it represents.

“We believe diversity should be embraced regardless of race, color, religion, sex, physical or mental ability sexual orientation, gender identification and national origin,” said MacDonald. “Now we are taking actionable steps.”

She cites a quote from Brené Brown in her book Culture of Empathy as the guiding force in her approach with the organization of CANDID. “In order to empathize with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how you imagine their experience to be.”

With Brown and MacDonald guiding CANDID’s efforts they launched the ‘Count Us’ campaign in August hosting voter registration events at housing developments and local churches. Voter education outreach will continue leading up to the Nov. 3 Election. Local candidates have also been encouraged to attend to hear more of the concerns of underserved communities.

More efforts are being planned in the near future, including the ‘Hear Us Campaign’ focused on round-table listening sessions to bring more diverse experiences to the forefront and provide much needed additional perspectives.

Tom Elfers, chair of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee, said the Party is committed to ensuring this is not a one-off election-year initiative and several members of the committee have signed on to help.

“We are excited to be able to support the CANDID campaign,” said Elfers. “The recent events in Louisville and elsewhere show that our nation, our state, and our community still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing issues of racial equity and diversity. We want to do something here and now, but we’re also committed to making a long-term commitment to ensuring that issues of race, inclusion, fairness and equity are top priorities for us tomorrow, next year, and for years to come.”

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