Twelve-year-old Madison Kimrey may not be old enough to vote, but she is determined that North Carolinians should be able to do so without any kind of suppression.
A participant in "Moral Monday" protests and writer of her own blog about politics, Madison has started a MoveOn petition to meet with Governor Pat McCrory, as she calls it, "citizen to Governor." She has also started a youth organization, North Carolina Youth Rock, that is advocating for the reintroduction of a voter preregistration bill for 16- and 17-year-olds. I spoke with Madison this week about how she got involved in political activism and her demands for the accountability of politicians to the citizens who elect them.
What was your first encounter with any kind of activism?
My first encounter with activism was down in Jacksonville, Florida. We went down there–one of my best friends lives down there–we went down there to visit them, but there were also protests going on against a children’s museum. We went to protest them because they tried to discriminate against a same-sex couple, saying that they had to pay extra to get a family membership because they weren’t really a family.
So when I came back up to North Carolina, I started paying attention what was going on around North Carolina and where I live, and that’s when I heard about some of the things Pat McCrory was doing, and that’s when I started going to all the "Moral Monday" protests.
How did you start learning about what was going on in your own state?
Once I got back, there was a news story about what happened in Florida and my protesting by Zack Ford of ThinkProgress. Then I realized that a lot of people wanted to read what he wrote about it, and so I was like 'What if I told my side–my part of the story –of what happened down there.'
That’s when I started my blog, and I started reading other people’s blogs. I really started paying more attention and learning more by reading other people’s blogs.
Tell me about getting involved with "Moral Mondays."
Getting involved with Moral Mondays, it was…I heard about some of the topics they were protesting about…I think the first one I went to was for women’s rights. So we went to "Moral Mondays," and it was really awesome. There were so many people that represented me and so many different issues I believe in.
What issues interest you the most?
Definitely voting rights. That’s my main issue. I care about everything, but that’s the issue I’m most passionate about. I feel like it affects me more than the other ones, considering it’s closest to me.
I’m very excited to participate in the voting process, and I am a little worried. That’s why I’ve done all of this petition stuff and I have my blog because I can’t vote; this is the only shot I’ve got at taking part in my state and in what’s going on. This is the way to get my voice heard.
Tell me about the day you went to the Governor’s mansion.
That day, my mom and I went to the Governor’s mansion in the morning. Planned Parenthood and a few other people were there. But we had to leave to get back to Burlington because I had a voice lesson in the afternoon. Right after my voice lesson was over I started scrolling through my Twitter and I saw what happened with Pat McCrory giving the Planned Parenthood people cookies. That was like, wow! It made no sense! Why did he give them cookies instead of going out there and talking to them to find out why they were out there and where they were coming from? I’m sure that would have made a big difference to them that he actually cared about the fact that they were out there instead of giving them cookies.
Later that night…I saw that there were still some people out there at the Governor’s Mansion, and I was like, “Mom! Mom! Can we please go back?”
So she took me back down there and we were there for half an hour or an hour. A staff person came down to close the mansion gates, and we were like, “Hey, those cookies were really good earlier. We want some brownies.” So he told us to hold on, walked around the corner, and returned with some to-go containers of cake. So that’s when the whole cake thing started. So I went over there and he stuffed the cake through the bars of the gate. I brought it back and we started making signs that said "Let them eat cake."
What did you do next?
The next day Pat McCrory’s spokesperson said something—I think it was to WRAL—that the reason that the staff person gave cake out was that it was at the response of a child’s request. He said we were outside begging for cake.
I realized then that they’re not taking me seriously, about how I feel about this. That’s when I started my petition, because I really wanted to sit down and listen to what Pat McCrory had to say.
Were you expecting the Governor to find out about your invitation and show up to the mall?
The day before…I was supposed to go to the mall to meet Pat McCrory, he talked on a radio show in Ashville. He talked about how I was a prop for liberal media, and how my parents scripted me all the time. It’s crazy!
How did that make you feel?
I didn’t really care. I wasn’t really expecting him to show up, but there was that hope… But when I heard him say that I realized he wasn’t coming, and I realized that is no way to lead a state. That’s not leadership! Why are you going to say these things about young people that are going to vote pretty soon?
What advice would you give to other young people that want to take action on an issue?
I would say to them to start with one small thing; if it doesn’t take off immediately, they should just keep trying. It will eventually grow, and they shouldn’t get discouraged. And tell everyone you know that they have to get preregistered before September 1 if they want to vote this fall!
Watch host Melissa Harris-Perry's interview with Madison above.