Cape Verdean activists get organized for Team Obama
Each election cycle provides an opportunity for encouraging voter participation among immigrant communities. Many believe that with Barack Obama on the ballot, Election 2008 could be a golden ticket, rearing voting blocs across the city that 2009 mayoral contenders will have to pay heed to.
"I expect a huge participation just based on our get out the vote effort," said Denise Dabney, Dorchester for Obama organizer. Dabney said immigrants and other people of color showed an out of the ordinary enthusiasm to register - even among those who were not yet citizens.
To the same end and more, John Barros, a Cape Verdean and director of the Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative, has taken six weeks leave to serve as a regional field director for the Obama campaign - splitting the responsibility of Boston with Menino communication aide Ramon Soto. Barros also oversees a chunk of Western Massachusetts.
On Friday, as the rain from hurricane Kyle pelted Dorchester's shores, Barros and others Cape Verdeans turned out for a meeting at the Boston Teachers Union.
It was ill-attended due to the weather, the Friday-night time of the meeting, and Cirque du Soleil workers mistakenly charging admission to the parking lot, but a hardcore contingent of the Cape Verdean political crowd did show up. Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral; deputy director of Human Services for Boston Adalberto Teixeira (a Cedar Grove resident); and Brockton's director of community services Moses Rodrigues, to name a few.
"I was hearing Roxbury for Obama, Dorchester for Obama and I wanted to do something about our community, because we are not engaged," said Barros as people trickled in and shed their raincoats. Barros hopes to build Cape Verdean participation to a degree that would make phone banking other Cape Verdean communities possible, calling communities in Virginia, Florida and Ohio - all swing states in the coming election. More locally, the heart of New England's Cape Verdean community - Bristol County - also leans rightward.
"Deval was the first Democratic Governor to win Bristol County since Christ was in junior high," said Rodrigues, who gained first hand political experience running for Brockton's City Council six years ago, but lost by 500 votes. "We've [had success] in Brockton. Not enough to get elected, but enough to sway elections," he said after the meeting.
"I've never been so worried for the future of this country than I am right now," Cabral said at the meeting, firing up the small crowd of around 25. "All the public services money has been swept into a war that should never have happened."
Using a strategy of registering voters, soliciting volunteers for phone banking and then for canvassing, the group hopes to start chartering their own buses up to New Hampshire, and, looking beyond 2008, waking up their own community to the political power they can hold in local elections.
A few present, including Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation organizer Elias Monteiro (undecided), said this election would be the first they have participated in. Not yet a citizen, Monteiro doesn't plan to cast a vote.
"I can't vote but I can push people to vote," he said. "I am very persistent in what I do and I can be very persuasive."