“We believe that together with other young people we can make a stronger democracy,” explains Raven Douglas, Deputy Director of MOVE Texas.
MOVE, which stands for Mobilize, Organize, Vote, and Empower, was founded by seven students at The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2013. Today, it has grown to become a non-profit, non-partisan voting rights organization with 13 full-time employees, 23 fellows, and 30 interns.
MOVE Texas Deputy Director Raven Douglas stands for a portrait on Houston Street in Downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Raven, who’s from Missouri City, Texas, was a political science major at UTSA when she became involved with the organization in 2016. That same year, H. Drew Galloway returned to San Antonio to become the Executive Director of the organization.
MOVE Texas Executive Director H. Drew Galloway poses for a portrait on Houston Street in Downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Drew, a native of Georgia, originally came to San Antonio in 2011 to do new market development for Spec's Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods. Drew had spent years in the wine business, a true passion of his, both in the U.S. and abroad. But moving here catalyzed a change in his life. “The minute I landed in San Antonio I understood how special this city is and got deeply involved in civics and local government,” Drew explains.
As an undergrad in public administration at the UTSA Downtown Campus, Drew would spend his lunch hours watching cases at the courthouse and later interned at City Council. It was during this time he became familiar with MOVE. A few years later, the first Executive Director, Hannah Beck, would call on him to lead the organization.
Raven and Drew have experienced the growth of MOVE Texas together, including this year’s expansion of operations outside Bexar County to communities like Laredo and San Marcos. Drew envisions MOVE spreading out to mobilize communities of young people to become more civically engaged all across the state.
MOVE has recently relocated its headquarters to the Ella Austin Community Center. “Being in a community that is primarily people of color is a really great opportunity,” Raven explains. It allows the organization to connect with communities that have historically been under-served or disenfranchised. They do this in part through connections with other organizations like WestCare and 100 Black Men who are also housed at Ella Austin.
The MOVE team finds their home at the Ella Austin Community Center. The Ella Austin Community Center has been serving the eastern sector of San Antonio for over 100 years. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
And community is really at the center of what MOVE is doing to mobilize voters. Drew explains that for years, the message behind voting was always along the lines of “Voting is your responsibility,” and “Your vote is your voice.” He says this can be isolating for some millennials who prefer to think of civic engagement as a group activity.
That’s why MOVE utilizes “Pledge to Vote” cards at their events for gathering feedback on what issues matter most to young voters, and helps connect them to the importance of voting to influence those issues.
UTSA Public Health Major Jacqueline Aranda, 21, registers to vote at a MOVE Texas booth at the UTSA main campus. When asked about the importance of getting registered to vote, Aranda went on to say "it's always best to get registered to vote even though you may not know who to vote for yet. There's a ton of information out there that can help you make a well informed your decision." Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Drew gives an example through the partnership MOVE has with SA2020. They surveyed millennials on the issues that mattered most to them. Interestingly enough, they found that millennials really want to live in Downtown San Antonio. This connects to issues of student debt, car payments, auto insurance, and public transportation, explains Drew.
To help create the downtown housing and public transportation network to improve access to the urban lifestyle, young people need to vote and become more civically engaged. He concludes, “If we voted like our parents, the issue base would completely change.”
MOVE Texas Intern and UTSA Global Affairs Major Ana-Sofia Gonzalez assists UTSA students with their voting registration on October 9, 2018. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“For me, MOVE represents tangible change,” adds Raven. As they engage young communities, there are several steps to helping them attain an active civic life. Registering to vote and casting a vote are only the first two steps. After that, there are many opportunities to engage such as volunteering for a campaign, organizing a protest, or getting involved in policy-making.
Perhaps the best example of MOVE going beyond voter registration and into true policy advocacy was the parade ordinance changes in March of 2018. Up to that point, San Antonio actually had one of the most restrictive ordinances governing protests in the nation. It could cost groups up to $10,000 for permits and fees and required 30 days’ notice.
MOVE gathered stakeholders, looked to peer cities, and helped craft a new ordinance that helped protect free speech in the Alamo City. It passed the City Council unanimously. Now, it costs $0 and only requires 15 days’ notice to organize a protest.
The mobilization to protect and even expand first amendment rights and improve access to the downtown neighborhood as a place for the community to protest and express their views represents the transformational change organizations like MOVE are capable of.
Young people in San Antonio and beyond are mobilizing, organizing, voting and empowering each other. Resulting in, as Raven put it, a stronger democracy.