Personal Space


A one on one conversation with Courtney Howard

After Doug Jones won the special election in December to represent Alabama as its new U.S. Senator, it was widely reported that one constituency in particular had played a major role in pushing him over the finish line: African-American women. Noting that a full 98 percent of Alabama’s black women voters cast their ballots for Jones, the New York Times put together a short video to show the faces behind the statistic. One of these was 25-year-old Courtney Howard.

We tracked down Howard at the Birmingham law firm of Fonteneau & Arnold LLC, where she currently works as a litigation paralegal as she prepares for law school in the fall. We wanted to find out more about what drove her support for Jones and her thoughts on the groundswell of enthusiasm among minority voters in general. She also told us about an initiative she created, #23GivesBack, to help young adults coordinate community service projects.

B-Metro: It’s been noted that Alabama’s African-American women played a pivotal role in Doug Jones’ Senate victory. Were you actively involved in the campaign, or just a very enthusiastic voter?

Howard: I was a very enthusiastic voter. I had lots of friends who volunteered for him, and the law firm where I work was heavily involved with his campaign. There were college students from different cities and states who came to Birmingham to canvas, and one of our attorneys hosted one of those volunteers at her home. Another signed up for phone banking, and she literally spent an entire day when she could have been meeting with clients calling voters and finding people who needed help getting to the polls. She sent Uber drivers out of her own money to drive them.

So I was going to vote (for Jones) anyway, but the influence of seeing the attorneys as well as my friends who were working and volunteering for the campaign, that just added to it.

B-Metro: What were your personal reasons for supporting Jones?

Howard: It was an obvious decision for me, because it’s not my character to have someone speaking on my behalf in the Senate who is an alleged pedophile. And because of some of the things (Moore) said, I felt like if I did not vote for Doug Jones, I knew what could happen to my community. I felt threatened for our minority communities as well as just the working class in general.

B-Metro: What are your expectations for Jones now that he’s in the Senate?

Howard: It’s been more than 20 years since Alabama has had a Democratic Senator, so my biggest wish for him is just not to let us down—not just us as his voters, but also the people he fought for when he prosecuted two Klan members for the 1963 church bombing that killed four little girls. That resonated with the black community. It resonated with African-American females. So I just want to make sure he keeps us in mind—minorities in general, including women and minorities from different backgrounds—and remembers, ‘I’m not just doing this for people who look like me. I’m doing this for all the people who live in the communities I’m representing.’

B-Metro: You’re also the founder and coordinator of something called #23GivesBack. What is that about?

Howard: My mom passed away when she was 23. I was six at the time. I knew I wanted to do something for my 23rd birthday to honor her, so that’s when I started #23GivesBack. We raised money and made 230 bags with sandwiches, chips from Golden Flake, and hygiene products, and we went around the city of Birmingham and gave them out to people who are homeless. I called them my VIPs for the day. Along with that I did a coat and shoe drive for a public-housing community.

Then one of my friends called me the next year and said, ‘I’m turning 23—I want to do #23GivesBack! Can you set it up for me?’ So we continued it. I’ve done #23GivesBack four times now.

One Response to “Personal Space”

  1. Shirley Combs says:

    As a grandmother of Courtney, I am so proud of her in doing the things that has been so positive in her life

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