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Brody Forum with Nykidra Robinson Focuses on Mobilizing Black Female Voters

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Nykidra Robinson headshot, background is voted stickers

Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson, founder & CEO of Black Girls Vote, joined Dean Robert C. Orr for a Norman and Florence Brody Family Foundation Public Policy Forum.

With increasing partisanship within the United States, it is more important than ever to mobilize minority and historically underrepresented voters. The recent Norman and Florence Brody Family Public Policy Foundation Forum encouraged participants to reflect on the history of voter suppression within the United states and promote greater minority participation in elections. 

The forum was led by Nykidra Robinson, the founder and CEO of Black Girls Vote. This nonprofit organization was created in 2015 with the goal of increasing black female voter participation to raise awareness and political discussion around issues that face this community. Through their programs, Black Girls Vote has registered 16,000 new voters and trained over 300 women in the voter registration process. 

Robinson began her presentation with a brief overview of the historic suppression of black female voices within U.S. elections. Black women were not included in the 13th Amendment and were not granted significant voting access following the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving black women a unique relationship to voter suppression that is not shared with black men or white women. Understanding this history and its continued influence in the voting habits of black women is what inspired Robinson to create her organization. 

“It is so critical to talk about the shoulders that I stand on,” she said. “I cannot be doing this work had it not been for the women like Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, or the women of the Civil Rights Movement, who gave their lives for our right to vote and for access to the polls.” 

School of Public Policy Dean Robert C. Orr began the question and answer section of the discussion by asking Robinson what leadership qualities she feels has made her and her organization so successful. Robinson confidently and enthusiastically responded that a good leader places the mission of the organization and the staff above themselves. It’s not about always knowing the answer but understanding who to turn to for help and guidance. 

Robinson also offered insight into how to create more inclusive work and campus environments. In addition to people of color embodying the changes they would like to see, she also reminded listeners to always stand behind and empower their peers, especially those within marginalized communities. Robinson encouraged minority workers and students to seek out sources of allyship amongst their peers who may not be within their community.

“There are so many people who will support you, and they don’t have to look like you.” 

Robinson completed the discussion with a conversation about how to encourage voter participation. She encouraged participants to recognize subtle forms of voter suppression, such as reducing poll access through excessive wait times or lost ballots, and called on them to direct their voices at their representatives to show them that these are issues that matter to their constituents. 

Robinson’s discussion of the systemic oppression that still impacts our elections, workplaces, and campus communities is an important reminder that, though immense improvements have been made towards equality, we still have a long way to go. However, she reminds us that influential reforms, including the current civil rights movement, are carried through the youth.

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Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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