Afro-Latina filmmaker Lisa Cortés has liberty and enlightenment running through her veins.
Through taking in her family’s oral history over the years, Cortés, whose father is Afro-Colombian and mother is African American, learned that one of her ancestors in the early 19th century worked as a messenger for Simón Bolivar, and would later rise to the rank of captain. Bolivar, aka El Libertador, was a Venezuelan military leader who led the revolutions of several South American countries against the Spanish Empire.
“Activism has been part of my family both here in the United States and in Colombia for many years,” Cortés tells Remezcla.
In the Amazon original documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, Cortés, who serves as co-director and co-producer with Liz Garbus, examines what it means to live in a free and democratic society by exploring voter suppression in America.
“The ability to tell this story intersects with my personal history on multiple levels,” Cortés said.
By telling the story of the systemic disenfranchisement of American voters over the last 130 years, Cortés shows the efforts made to prevent voters from casting their ballots—from poll taxes to literacy tests to the shutdown of polling places across the country.
While the 15th and 19th amendments guaranteed all men and women the right to vote, voter suppression has been evident for years. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “certain communities are particularly susceptible to suppression” and “outright targeted.” This includes people of color, students, the elderly and people with disabilities.
“What is so interesting about the history of voting is that it’s a continuous push-pull,” Cortés says. “There is progress and there is entrenchment. But as we are in this incredibly challenging time now, we are protesting in the streets and at the ballot box.”
But with the most contentious U.S. presidential election in the modern era only a few weeks away, is protesting enough? Cortés thinks so.
“When I look at where tremendous strides happen with the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, C.T. Vivian, Dolores Huerta, that progress came with organizing and mobilizing on multiple planes,” Cortés explains.
“We are protesting in the streets and at the ballot box.”
Even with President Trump’s blatant attempts to undermine the legitimacy of this year’s election by making unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots will be fraudulent, Cortés says the one thing Trump cannot disregard is the U.S. Constitution.
“The Constitution is very clear in what it states,” she said. “There has been a lot of work done to improve it. [Trump] is peddling something that is not a part of our democratic practice.”
No matter what your political affiliation, Cortés hopes people look at the history of the electoral process and make a commitment to voting, especially if they are part of a community that’s a target for suppression.
“The voices of the people will need to be heard in this most important election,” she tells us. “It’s important that you start making a plan to exercise your right to vote and make certain that you are represented.”