As people demand more from their government and push for a vibrant and bold democracy, far-right movements that do not represent the majority of Americans have gained outsized political power in states, communities, and even in the courts, seeking to prevent positive change and reverse progress. What we do now will determine the future of people and democracy. While the playbook for this moment remains to be written, history provides a roadmap of how people have fought against long odds for democracy and won.

Our #WorthTheFight series explores the people and movements — past and present — who inspire our team, our partners, and our allies to fight for democracy and our rights.

For this series, we spoke with Tayhlor Coleman — a seventh-generation Texan, vanlifer, and voting rights advocate. After working for dozens of campaigns and causes across the country, she moved back to Texas to meet the fight for voting rights head on. After converting her van ‘Barb’ (named for Barbara Jordan) into a tiny home and voter registration mobile on wheels, she now lives on the road full time, registering voters across the Lone Star State to shine a light on all the obstacles that make Texas the hardest state in which to cast a ballot.

NEW BRAUNFELS, TX – MARCH 17: Tayhlor Coleman poses for a portrait outside of her van in New Braunfels, Texas on March 17, 2022. (Photo by Montinique Monroe for Texas Monthly)

Whose fight for democracy and our rights inspires you?

I named my van ‘Barb’ because Barbara Jordan’s historic fight for our democracy inspires me to this day. And inside that van, I keep a framed copy of a 1867 Texas voter registration roll, to remind me of the countless newly emancipated Americans who registered to vote and fought for our democracy when the stakes were higher to do so. Their fight inspires me too.

What about their work inspires you?

Barbara Jordan’s fight to include Texans and language minorities in the Voting Rights Act resulted in the largest expansion of the franchise and our democracy in a generation. She knew equitable access to the ballot box is the first and necessary step to ensure politicians are accountable to all Americans and that the government reflects the will of our continuously diversifying populace. And for generations before that, Americans of all stripes risked and even lost their lives in order to register and cast a ballot so that their communities would have a voice in how justice was administered or how their schools would meet the needs of their kids.

It’s a reminder that making positive change is always a fight, and it’s on us to protect democracy for future generations, just as previous generations did for us.

Why is democracy worth the fight to you?

Democracy is worth the fight because history shows us that democracy *is* a fight. Immediately after our founders first promised that “all men are created equal”, it was on everyday Americans to fight to make that promise true. After the Civil War, newly emancipated Americans fought to be included in that promise until the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Barbara Jordan demanded that the words  “all men” must include her, a Black woman–and fought to expand the promise of the Voting Rights Act to include Texans and immigrants everywhere. 

So too must we fight to protect and expand democracy for disenfranchised and excluded Americans, ensuring that they are included in that promise, too.

How do you fight for democracy?

I think everyone’s fight for democracy is going to look a bit different. For me, my fight starts at home and with those closest to me. It’s about keeping up the pressure and reminding those in my own circle who are already so disillusioned right now that it *is* worth it to keep voting, to keep organizing, to keep demanding change, to keep finding the inspiration needed to keep fighting in the face of extreme backlash and retrenchment. And in the moments where even I start to feel disillusioned, my travels in my van Barb keep me focused and energized as I’m reminded of the lengths anti-democratic politicians will go to make it harder for us to hold them accountable.

Any last thoughts about your #worththefight inspiration?

As dispiriting as it can be right now for women to be stripped of their rights, to feel the chasm of wealth inequality grow greater, to see our history censored from textbooks, and to watch our schools become both figurative and literal battlefields, we must remember that any progress we’ve ever had in this country is because the people demanded it. We are obligated to seek out whatever inspiration we need to keep fighting because history shows us if we don’t continue to do the work to make positive change in this country even as it gets harder to do so, the change we’re waiting for will never happen.