Black Voters Matter ‘Blackest Bus Tour’ makes stop in Houston to encourage voting in Black and Latino communities

HOUSTON – Terrance “TK” Koontz had a mission centered around one question - are you registered to vote?

That was the exact question he asked a woman who lived in the Cuney Homes, an apartment complex in Third Ward.

Koontz’s conversation with the woman continued while he walked door-to-door with a hand full of fliers trying to ensure the community was doing its part.

“We just need folks to get involved,” he said while handing out fliers.

The fliers showcased a concert featuring Houston activist and rapper Trae Tha Truth, barbecue from Burns Original BBQ and a message from The Black Votes Matter “The Blackest Bus in America” tour.

The Black Votes Matter - “We Got the Power” campaign stopped in Houston on Tuesday, its fourth city in Texas, as part of a nationwide tour to spread awareness about voting in communities of color.

The tour is also driven against legislation proposed in 43 states, including Texas, where two bills are making their way through the capital - Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6.

During Gov. Greg Abbott’s visit to Houston this month, he said he plans to support the proposed laws, such as SB7 and HB6, to crack down on voter fraud and protect voter integrity.

“Election officials should be working to stop potential mail ballot fraud,” Abbott said on March 15.

However, Black Votes Matter’s campaign contends that the Republican-backed legislation proposed in Texas is similar to a law passed in Georgia, which is being challenged in federal courts.

Devin Branch, an organizer from Texas Organizing Project, told the crowd who gathered at the tour’s first stop at The Breakfast Klub, that the bills and law were GOP-led attempts at suppressing votes in predominantly Black and Latino communities.

“If we are able to defeat things that are seeking to suppress our vote, like House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7, and we are able to do things like we’re doing today, speak to the voters and let them know how important their vote is, we could have a record turnout that could change the politics of the state of Texas,” Branch said.

Nicholas Little, a member of the executive committee of the NAACP Houston Branch, said the Abbott-backed bills squarely target Harris County, which drew fire for opening drive-thru voting locations and planning to mail absentee ballot applications to all of the county’s registered voters. In October, The Texas Supreme Court ruled that Harris County could not mail out applications for absentee ballots to all of its 2.4 million registered voters.

The bills in the Texas capital would codify the court’s ruling into law.

The Republican Party of Texas argues that drive-thru locations are an illegal expansion of curbside voting that should be restricted to only those who are sick or disabled.

Little said the measures would suppress votes in Democratic strongholds.

“In the year 2021, there is no reason why there should be laws to promote any type of anything put in place to prevent anyone from voting, no matter what the situation is,” Little continued.

Eugene Howard, president of the NAACP Brazoria County Chapter, agreed, adding that the bus campaign’s goal of registering more voters of color is an important combatant.

“The only way we can make the changes we need is for you to register and for you to use your vote,” Howard said.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.