Mission and History

For more info, please contact: Joe Certaine

Our Mission

Our Volunteer Needs

The O.V. Catto Voter Empowerment Initiative is an effort to increase voter registration and Election Day turnout, among people of color, in Pennsylvania. The Initiative has targeted eighteen jurisdictions within sixteen counties in the Commonwealth where communities of color are underrepresented in that county’s electorate. The participants in the Initiative include the Faith Community, Civic Organizations, Labor Organizations, Sororities and Fraternities, Community Based Organizations, Voting Rights Advocacy Groups, and others.

The campaign for greater civic participation and voter empowerment consists of a series of coordinated efforts to conduct non-partisan voter registration activities at locations in Municipalities, Townships, and Boroughs that have demonstrated traditionally low voter participation rates. Church-sponsored activities seem most favored activities because of the role played by the Faith Community in the everyday lives of the poor, underemployed, and citizens of color.  Labor organizations and advocacy groups for workers’ rights also identify readily with voting and civic engagement and are engaged with their constituents daily. Post-secondary student populations are encouraged to join the O.V. Catto Voter Empowerment Initiative.

The Catto Initiative will coordinate communications and track the progress of voter registration, by county, in the sixteen targeted jurisdictions.  Use of Online Voter Registration, in Pennsylvania, is encouraged as the quickest and most direct method of voter registration. Traditional Mail-In Voter Registration Applications will also be utilized, based on availability through local County Commissioners Offices and County Voter Services offices. The Catto Initiative will encourage use of Mail-in Voting to increase the odds for our community’s voter and Election Workers’ safety especially during COVID-19.  We will assist participating organizations in getting the materials and the technical assistance required, to build a non-partisan, voter registration and voter information campaign that reflects the goal of increased voter participation, by people of color, in Pennsylvania communities. For more detailed information or to join the O.V. Catto Initiative contact: jcertaine@gmail.com – 215-510-9928. Thank you.

The O.V. Catto Initiative will require a designated individual in each participating group to be responsible for keeping track of the number of new voter registrations and transmitting that information to a central website. The Catto Initiative website will also provide information for outreach and promotion that can be downloaded and customized for activists in each local political jurisdiction and the participating grassroots organization.

Notices of scheduled, local, voter registration activities will be posted, so that volunteers and activists can plug into the closest participating organization or group involved in the Catto Initiative. Tracking of new voter registrations will be monitored and progress will be reported on a regular basis to participating organizations. Conference calls will be conducted to share information and notifications. Day-to-day contact will be maintained by phone, email, text messaging, etc.

A social media campaign will support outreach and marketing efforts supplemented by radio advertising, wherever possible. Each organization should designate one or two individuals to oversee the voter registration and volunteer activities for that body of organization members. Those individuals will be responsible for the day-to-day interaction with the O.V. Catto Initiative.  

Non-partisan voter registration campaign material will be made available to each participating entity until October. Voter Protection Volunteers will be recruited throughout the campaign cycle, to ensure that voters can cast their ballots, without interference, by any outside interests on Election Day.  The O.V. Catto Voter Empowerment Initiative will provide speakers and other organizing assistance wherever possible, to groups requiring assistance with their effort to mobilize, register, and inform potential voters. 

The O.V. Catto Voter Empowerment Initiative is an effort to increase voter registration and voter participation in every election. The Initiative is not aligned nor coordinated with any political party or candidate for public office. The Initiative is assisted by volunteers from a wide spectrum of participating groups, organizations, and individuals who are committed to full participation in the electoral process by citizens of color in Pennsylvania. 

You will be introduced to the participants in your county and solicited about the targeting, communications, and accountability aspects of the current campaign in your county/neighborhood. You will be expected to identify volunteers and a schedule of activities in your designated area of operations.

As often as possible, cooperation and coordination with other Catto participants in your county/neighborhood is encouraged.  We will need to always be prepared for field operations training, to develop an environment of “Force Readiness”, not just in making sure folks mail-in their ballots or go to the polls, but in making sure the voters are comfortable as voter advocates, and will accept no intimidation or voter suppression activities, in communities of color. Each participating group is expected to prepare  simple localized campaign material encouraging voter registration and voting. The O.V. Catto Initiative will provide basic material which can be downloaded from the website and customized to fit the organization’s voter empowerment goals.

Organization contacts in each county, where they are available, will be available to share ideas and coordinate activities wherever possible.  Daily and weekly communication is encouraged in order to maximize our collective efforts. We discourage reliance upon any elected officials or political party operatives in achieving our goals of non-partisan political empowerment and self-determination. This Initiative is totally reliant upon experienced grassroots activists, organizers, and tactical planners, who are indigenous to the targeted communities and fully committed to the empowerment of citizen voters. Technical assistance, communications, and outreach is all through available public information. We welcome your involvement.  Join us.

Our History

The Catto Initiative is dedicated to Octavius Valentine Catto, a famed voting rights advocate and martyr. Mr. Catto was assassinated on Election Day in 1871 while encouraging Black men to go to the polls and vote in Philadelphia. He was one of the first documented martyrs for voting rights, but not the last. It is in Mr. Catto’s honor that we work to further his mission now and for years to come. This Initiative has operated since 1982 within the networks of grassroots activism in Pennsylvania and other areas of the United States. Our coordinated Voter Protection Campaign joined with other national and Commonwealth allies in 2012.

Our Convener

The Catto Initiative is convened by an experienced soldier of the Movement for Black Empowerment. He was awarded and presented the name and rank of Jemadari by a national leadership cadre and has served, on the People’s Business as a Commander, for more than three decades. Jemadari provides tactical expertise oftentimes required in executing effective voter protection.

“November 3, 2020 is when voters in the U.S. electorate will make their decision about who will guide the functions of our government. We will not allow our voices to be excluded, silenced, or suppressed in the electoral process.” – Jemadari


It is for the good of the Nation that every element of its population be wisely instructed in the advantages of a Republican Government, that every element of its people, mingled though they be, shall have a true and intelligent conception of the allegiance due to the established powers.

Octavius Valentine Catto,
From Address to the Institute for Colored Youth, May 10, 1864

Contact Us

Joe Certaine
Convener

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