Shelby Summit 2024 highlights voting rights and social justice issues

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Community engagement, social justice and the future of democracy took center stage during the annual Shelby Summit hosted by the Alabama NAACP on June 21-22.

The two-day event, which began on Friday, June 21, started with a rally at the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana, which sought to bring together a diverse group of individuals, organizations and activists all committed to forging positive change.

“The Shelby Summit is more than just an annual event,” read a statement released by the Alabama NAACP. “It is a vital platform for addressing the aftermath of the landmark SCOTUS Shelby v. Holder decision. This pivotal ruling gutted Section II of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, shaking the foundation of voting rights protection in our nation.”

Alongside the Alabama NAACP, a number of local organizations and activists also took part in the event, including support by the Shelby County Democratic Party—which was represented by active members that included candidates Dr. Jenice Prather-Kinsey, coach Bobby Pierson and Marsha Sturdevant.

Following the march to the courthouse at 11 a.m., participants then made their way to the Shelby County Arts Council where participants were able to enjoy moments of fellowship and community interaction intended to foster networking for future collaborations, partnerships and initiatives.

“Each year, the summit serves as a beacon of hope and resilience, bringing together activists, lawmakers and community leaders to confront the challenges stemming from the Shelby decision,” read a release by the Alabama NAACP. “Together, we strategize, mobilize and advocate for the restoration of voting rights and the protection of our democracy.”

The second day of the summit, a cornerstone event in the region’s advocacy calendar, featured dynamic discussions and panels on topics. Among them included discussion on the impending impact from Alabama’s new law prohibiting publicly funded institutions from endorsing or mandating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs—which goes into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Keynote moderators, including local figures like James Giles of WBRC Fox 6 News and Charles C. Woods, a professor and chairman for the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Miles College, took part in leading several engaging forums that addressed this and a myriad of other challenges ranging in topics from educational reform, social justice, environmental concerns, voting rights, community empowerment and women’s reproductive rights.

Giles, reflecting on his role as moderator for the young adult session, expressed gratitude to the Shelby County and Alabama NAACP for the opportunity to take part in the event.

“We had an insightful panel discussion this morning on young people and voting,” Giles said. “It was great hearing the different perspectives of my peers as we inch closer towards Election Day.”

The League of Women Voters of Alabama also played a pivotal role at the summit, where they hosted the first of two town hall meetings at the event. That discussion featured insights from young voters and included Talladega Mayor Ashton Hall among its panelists that discussed voting rights and voter engagement in depth.

“(I) had the pleasure of bringing greetings and serving as a panelist for the Shelby County NAACP Summit,” Hall said. “The panel session was titled ‘So, You Want Our Vote’ (and it) focused on developing effective advocacy strategies (and) provided attendees with valuable insights and tools to create meaningful change in their communities.”

LWVAL Voter Services Director Julie Reese and LWVAL Board Member Dana Ellis also facilitated workshops on voting rights restoration in a collaboration with Greater Birmingham Ministries.

“It’s always a great day when we get to spend time in service with our partner, the NAACP, who shares the league’s fight for voting rights for all here in Alabama,” Reese said.

The day then proceeded with the final town hall titled, “Town Hall for Democracy,” which provided all attendees with the chance to engage with local leaders and elected officials on matters impacting the local community before concluding the event with an outdoor music reception.

As participants departed Montevallo, the call to action remained clear—to uphold the legacy of voting rights pioneers and to advocate for a future where every American citizen’s voice is heard.

“Together, we will continue the fight to ensure that every voice is heard and every vote counts,” read a release by the Alabama NAACP. “Join us (as) we work to build a future where voting rights are safeguarded, democracy thrives and every citizen has equal access to the ballot box.”

Those seeking more information on the Shelby Summit and ongoing initiatives, are encouraged to visit the Alabama NAACP website at