Tina Knowles-Lawson and Sybrina Fulton want to ensure fair and safe elections this fall as they stress the importance of the Black vote as a driver of change.
The mother of music superstar Beyoncé and the mother of Trayvon Martin spoke with Sheinelle Jones on the 3rd hour of TODAY Thursday about their call for the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which includes a provision for $3.6 billion in grants to states for planning, preparation and security of elections.
"Voting, absolutely, though it is not the key to success for all the problems, certainly does make a difference, especially at the local level," Knowles-Lawson said. "Just connecting the dots is what we're trying to do because sometimes in the Black community just because we have gone unheard for so long, people have the feeling that their votes don't count, that their voices don't count.
"So voting is the best way, the first way, for us to make our voices heard and to show our power because we get to elect the officials that govern these situations."
Knowles-Lawson has joined forces with Fulton and other mothers of those like Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor who have been lost to gun violence to write an open letter to Senate leaders to pass the bill. The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted to pass the bill last month, but it has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
"We decided to come together to make our voice even stronger, to make our voice even more powerful," Fulton said. "It's very important to us that we stand together and we stand up for what's right."
Knowles-Lawson said her fear for the presidential election in the fall is a scene like the one this week in a primary election in Louisville, Kentucky, where voters were pounding on doors to get into the one polling place in a city of 600,000 people.
Voters in minority communities in Georgia had a similar issue earlier this month when they waited hours on line to vote due to fewer polling locations, lack of staffing and inoperable voting machines.
Knowles-Lawson also advocated for more absentee voting as a safer option during the coronavirus pandemic.
"You shouldn't have to decide between your health and going to vote," she said, adding, "Our prayer is that this lights a spark in that everyone will be outraged by the fact that this bill has not been passed and it's so badly needed."
Fulton continues to push for voting rights and racial justice eight years after her 17-year-old son was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted. Her son's name has been a rallying cry at protests around the world against racial injustice since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Fulton has also decided to run for political office, competing for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners in Florida.
She was asked about the indictments handed down Wednesday to the three suspects in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood in February.
"That's very hard," she said. "They will be setting a precedent that says that Black lives matter, and I think that it's time, it's time for people to see that you just can't go out and shoot and kill us and not be held accountable, so I'm hopeful that they will be not only indicted, but convicted as well."