The ongoing nationwide protests calling for social justice have amplified the significance of the upcoming election in November, which could determine whether or not the demands of Black Americans will be heard and how the country's future will be shaped. 

In an effort to encourage voting during this critical juncture in American history, BET has organized the first-ever National Black Voter Day. Partnering with the National Urban League (NUL) and several other civil rights organizations, the network plans to hold the historic event on September 18, according to a statement sent to Blavity.

“With 100 days until Election Day—it is critical for BET to utilize all of our resources and partnerships to drive Black civic engagement across the country, and the National Black Voter Day is a key part of this effort,” BET President Scott Mills said. “We will use the momentum of the fight against systemic racism to galvanize those marching in protest to march to the polls in November.”

Protesters, mobilized by the police killing of George Floyd, have been calling for police reform and the dismantling of America’s long-standing systemic racism. Continued police brutality, coupled with the disparities exasperated by the coronavirus pandemic, has inspired the increased social justice efforts of BET and its partners. 

“The pandemic and racial justice protests have shone a bright light on the stark racial disparities that exist in health care, the economy and our criminal justice system,” NUL President Marc H. Morial said. “If we are to repair these gaps, we must commit ourselves to making sure every Black American has the tools they need to register and cast an informed vote, whether by mail or in-person, early or on Election Day.”

The idea of mail-in voting has been discussed in recent months as many Americans worry about the risk of going to the polls during the pandemic. As Blavity previously reported, former first lady Michelle Obama launched an initiative in April to urge the government to expand voting options and keep Americans safe from the coronavirus.

“Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe. Expanding access to vote-by-mail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment — and they're long overdue," Obama said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has been a strong critic of voting by mail. In an interview with Fox News, the president said that if voting became easier, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again."

Trump doubled down on his sentiment during a press conference.

"Mail-in voting is a terrible thing," he said. "If you vote, you should go. Even the concept of early voting is not the greatest because a lot of things happen."

As part of its #ReclaimYourVote campaign, BET is now focused on fighting against voter suppression. 

“We have witnessed attempts to exclude Black Americans from the voting process through the purging of registration rolls, restrictive voter ID laws and other forms of voter suppression – a legacy of Jim Crow,” said Jeanine Liburd, chief social impact and communications officer for BET. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the National Urban League and an incredible group of impact partners to declare September 18 National Black Voter Day to energize our audience to reclaim their vote during this upcoming election and beyond.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of National Action Network, is also partnering with BET to eliminate hurdles in the voting process. Sharpton said the election of Trump in 2016 "proved in the most dangerous ways that elections have consequences."

"Which is why 2020 is shaping up to be the most important election of our lifetime," Sharpton said. "I, along with the National Action Network, wholeheartedly stand with BET's voter registration efforts through National Black Voter Day. The last few months have shown us that we are literally fighting for our lives."

BET and its partners will be busy in the days leading up to National Black Voter Day. The advocates plan to provide voter registration information, educate eligible voters about their rights and highlight important issues in discussions with candidates. 

National Black Voter Day falls on the same date as the first early voting days in South Dakota and Minnesota, where Floyd was killed. The event is the latest part of BET's #ReclaimYourVote campaign, which launched earlier this year.

"To date, #ReclaimYourVote has leveraged activations, talent, civil rights partnerships and television spots to urge the Black community to be counted in the census and to take a stand and vote," the network stated.