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'Our Future Is Truly At Stake': Pittsburgh Leaders Working To Increase Black Voter Participation In Upcoming Election

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Pennsylvania NAACP is launching a project called "Wake Up Black Vote."

The non-partisan organization says it wants to boost black voter participation in this year's election.

Black voter participation has grown in recent presidential elections. But in 2016, the black vote declined for the first time in 20 years.

Now the NAACP says 2020 is the year that black votes matter more than ever.

"We're launching a very aggressive initiative across the Commonwealth to empower African Americans to understand the importance of the vote," Ken Huston, statewide NAACP president, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

Huston says after Barack Obama's presidency, "You saw a very, very downward spiral of the African American vote."

But he and other black leaders think that will change this year.

WATCH: KDKA's Jon Delano Has More On "Wake Up Black Vote"

"I'm expecting the black vote to be pivotal, not only in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania but the nation. Our future is truly at stake," says Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project.

Stevens has spent decades working to increase the black vote, and he sees the recent protests over the killing of George Floyd as a critical incentive.

"If our community, the African American community, does not vote in this election, when will they?" said Stevens.

While older African Americans, especially women, have been reliable voters, that's not true of the young of all races.

But state Rep. Ed Gainey, a Lincoln-Lemington Democrat, says this year will be different.

"The protests must turn into a voting action that talks about how we change the condition of America, and I believe they will show up, particularly our youth, because they're tired of it," says Gainey.

All three leaders say the same thing: protests are good and get attention, but it's voting that elects the officials who will make the policy changes.

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