Dr. Biko Baker is the executive director of The League of Young Voters education based in Milwaukee, Wis. Baker is a pioneer in running city level, data-driven voter turnout campaigns that dramatically increase the voter participation of young urban citizens.
Dr. Baker please tell us the mission of your organization?
The league of young voters works with low income youth, non-college youth and youth of color and gets them engaged in the civic process. We provide the tools, information and training to make sure young people are winners and players in the political game.
How did you become involved with The League of Young Voters education?
This is a national organization that started in 2004. I was a young writer for Source magazine and there was a thing called the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and the league was a sponsor. I just kept working and getting involved. I was first a staff member, then a board member and now I am the executive director of the organization.
What role did your organization play in the election of President Obama?
The league is a non-partisan organization. So we made sure that young people were registered and got out to vote. But one of the cool things is many of our team members went on to work with the Obama campaign.
What are your thoughts on the recent attacks on voter’s rights and the current political climate in America?
I think that there is polarization and that things get framed in Republican and Democrat. But the truth is that both sides of the aisle are afraid of the growing strength of the communities of color political voice. I believe these shifts in policy are an attempt to weaken the community of color vote share.
You are considered a pioneer in city level data-driven campaigns, what exactly does that entail?
We use census data, consumer data and voting trend data to really drill down on the communities we work in, and we provide tools with this data to make sure that everyday people can engage and organize on a high level.
How has technology and social media impacted your organization?
It has shown the strength of our organization. Ten or 15 years ago people would say young people of color were apathetic to voting. But now we see that young people of color are the most active voters, even when Obama is not on the ballot. Data allows [us] to tell the stories and technology allows us to connect these stories.
What is the greatest obstacle facing your organization?
A lot of our folks throughout the country have bought into the idea that the government does not work for them. We need people to believe that they own the system and demand that we get more out of it.
If you were giving a speech to 500 young voters what would be the title of your speech and why?
“If Your Vote Was Not Powerful, Why Would They Be Trying to Steal It?”
What three books are you currently reading?
I’ve read so many but what sticks out in my mind [is] Democracy Remixed by Cathy Cohen. I think that is a book everyone should read.
If you were having an intellectual dinner party, what three great persons would you invite and why?
Nelson Mandela – Because I really want to know how he was able to love that strong, and even while in prison, love his enemies more than he loved himself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt – He was able to propose an innovative economic strategy and convinced the corporate and business leaders to come aboard.
Bob Marley- Because he had an undying love for people and even though he made millions, he never forgot to talk about changing Trenchtown and the suffering of others.
What final message would you like to give to our readers?
At this time, we are powerful as a generation. And we need to get serious about our power. And I want to get encourage everyone to get involved and follow President Obama’s My Brothers Keeper initiative; learn about black male achievement and let’s keep pushing and growing as an organization.
How can people contact your organization?
They can go to www.youngvoters.org or tweet me @bikobaker and I can direct them to the right people.