No one left unregistered – Gaby Forbes is making sure everyone is headed to the ballot box

No+one+left+unregistered+-+Gaby+Forbes+is+making+sure+everyone+is+headed+to+the+ballot+box

Hannah Levin, Managing Editor

While most students were spending their quarantine relaxing at home, watching Netflix or taking trips to the beach, senior Gabrielle Forbes was busy registering hundreds of students to vote, sitting on Zoom conferences with Michelle Obama and founding a social justice organization.

Forbes began working with When We All Vote (WWAV), a nonprofit, nonpartisan national youth voter registration initiative, in April. She began as an ambassador, helping to register voters in Miami-Dade County. After only six weeks, Forbes was promoted to ambassador fellow, where she led the registration campaign across the country, working 30-hour weeks and attending daily calls. 

Along with two other students, Forbes was put in charge of Miami-Dade County, and she worked to set up teams in over half of the public high schools in the district. Prior to the pandemic, these teams of 5-10 students traveled to different junior and senior History classes educating students about the voter registration process. When school was online, the teams gave their presentations over Zoom. Although many of the students are not of voting age, Forbes believes it is still important to pre-register.

“[When you turn 18] voting isn’t the first thing that comes to your head. We want to get that out of the way now as a 16 or 17-year-old so that when you do turn 18, you will be an official registered voter,” Forbes said.

After the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, Forbes became even more motivated and focused. She recognized how society groups Black men into stereotypes, and, realizing that her own brother could potentially become a victim, Forbes began working harder to get even more people registered in the hopes of enacting social change. 

Forbes started working with other states, including California, Georgia and New Jersey, helping them to expand and create new teams at additional schools. She was attending up to 16 calls a week, some starting as late as 10 p.m. to compensate for the time difference. From her work with WWAV, Forbes became educated about businesses and how others conducted themselves in professional settings. 

“I would see how adults maneuvered in that business,” Forbes said. “I learned so much about how to speak, how to get my point across effectively and how to stand my ground, both physically and mentally.”

At Krop, Forbes is involved in the Drama magnet. Her participation in theater inspired her post-graduation plans of taking a gap year in Tanzania, Africa to start a youth theater program as well as an after school STEM program with her family’s organization, Golden Aya. 

“I know there are so many kids who have never been exposed to the techniques and professional training of the art of theatre,” Forbes said. “I could be training the next Denzel Washington or Maya Angelou that the world may never have known.” 

Forbes believes that the skills taught to her in Drama helped her to achieve success within WWAV. Her ability to speak publicly and animatedly gave Forbes the opportunity to speak with Michelle Obama on a call with over 70,000 people.

Forbes was asked to talk with Obama at a WWAV virtual rally before school began to get participants to recenter their focus and get excited to start registering students. On the call, Forbes talked about her involvement in WWAV, what motivated her to join and the expectations she had for the coming months. She also spoke about the important role voting plays in activism and why it’s imperative to get involved and be aware of what’s happening in society.

“You don’t have to wait until you’re of legal age to put a stamp on your shirt and say that you’re an activist,” Forbes said. “You can be an activist right now. You can empower your peers right now.”

On National Voter Registration Day, WWAV hosted an all-day Instagram takeover to help people get ready to vote. Different celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Zendaya and DJ Khaled all hopped on Instagram Live, talking about different aspects of voting. Forbes, the only student on the line-up, was asked to speak with activist Brittany Packnett. In a 15-minute interview, Forbes recapped her time at WWAV and how she hopes that in the future more people will be proactive and excited about being knowledgeable of the world around them. At one point, Michelle Obama joined the live, and commented expressing how proud she was of Forbes.

Forbes’ passion for social justice and activism goes beyond her participation in WWAV. Along with junior Leilah Jones and seniors Kristie Laplante and Briana Sterling, Forbes cofounded Letters to the System, an organization that amplifies the voices of people who have experienced any type of discrimination. Anyone can submit a letter talking about anything from personal experiences of racism to drawings or song lyrics expressing their thoughts on systematic racism, and Forbes will ensure that these letters reach elected officials. Letter writers have the option to send their writings to the county mayor, local police station or state attorney. So far, they have sent out over 30 letters since beginning the project at the end of May.

If anyone is interested in getting involved with WWAV or has questions, feel free to direct message Forbes through her Instagram handle, @_iamgabrielle. She also hosts a weekly Zoom every Wednesday at 7 p.m. with more information about WWAV. No matter how you become active, Forbes believes every small contribution has a role in helping to make the world a better place.

“You have everything it takes to do what you need to do already inside of you,” Forbes said. “We have to believe in ourselves to know that every dream that you have can become a reality with faith in yourself and hard work.”