Changing demographics is not just something to look at and ponder on paper; it is something that impacts the life of every person in the nation, and currently there is a movement within the African American community to ensure that the political gains made since the 1960s are not lost to the numbers.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson of the Community Coalition (CoCo), which is one of the groups spearheading the African American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC), pointed out that across the country many of the seats previously held by Democrats have been taken over by Republicans. This is particularly true in the South and Midwest. And because in most states legislators draw the district lines, it is critical that Blacks organize, strategize and sit at the table to protect their voting interests.

Harris-Dawson said this fact is also why it is vital in California to make sure all congressional seats currently held by African Americans stay that way.

According to Erica Teasley, coordinator of the AARC, there are a number of ways district lines can be drawn, including using the Voting Rights Act. In this case, those developing the new district maps look to see if a community has 50 percent plus 1 voter of a certain minority group, age etc. If so, they are supposed to keep that community intact.

However, Teasley said that while drawing districts this way worked for African Americans in the past, with the dispersion of the Black community throughout the region and the increase of the Hispanic and Asian populations, strictly using this guideline could result in the loss of two seats in the state Assembly.

The other ways to draw lines include looking at influence districts, crossover districts, or coalition districts.

“We don’t need voting rights districts to elect African Americans. Influence districts have worked for us, and should continue to work for us today as she said.

While most states task the Legislature with redrawing district lines, in California a Citizen Redistricting Commission is currently in the process of developing new boundary lines for the state Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and the United States Congress.

Harris-Dawson said there are a number of key dates to keep in mind. May 26 is the deadline for individuals to submit comments to the commission in the pre-map phase. The redistricting body will then release the proposed maps on June 10, and begin another series of public hearings to solicit input on the district boundaries.

The local hearing will be held June 16 in Culver City.

In order to help African Americans understand what they should be advocating for, AARC is also holding a series of community meetings. The first is May 24, from 6-8 p.m., at the Expo Center, 3980 Bill Robertson Lane. The next is May 31, from 6-8 p.m. at the Los Angeles DWP auditorium, 4030 Crenshaw Blvd., and the final one will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Puente Learning Center, 10000 S. Western Ave. All are in Los Angeles.

The Citizen’s Redistricting Commission is also holding a meeting presenting the statewide and regional district maps and will accept comments from organized groups May 26, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and again May 27, from 9 a.m. to noon, at California State University, Northridge, in the Kurland Lecture Hall in the performing arts center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.

Organizations wishing to present comments must register online by emailing their group’s name, contact info and which type of district maps they will comment about to votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov or by calling (866) 356-5217.

Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis and there are a limited number of slots.