Midterms are right around the corner and that means we all as US citizens have the right and responsibility to vote. I understand the concept of having the right to choose to engage or disengage in the political process. Really. I hear you. But the way my ancestors are set up, I’ll be carrying my black behind to the voting booth every single time election day rolls around.
Voting is a right of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. I remember the very moment I was able to register to vote. I turned 18 just after the presidential election of 1996 and cried because I was one week shy of being able to cast my vote for the next president. It was Clinton’s second term and he was running against Kansan Bob Dole. I was not a Bill Clinton stan, but I didn’t have nothing for that Dole dude. Alas, four years would pass before I was granted the opportunity to bestow my stamp of approval on a presidential candidate.
I went to Drake University for undergrad and during the election season, our campus became ground zero of the Iowa Caucuses. All the presidential candidates made the rounds on campus, chopping it up with students like they understood our needs and valued our opinions. It was the first time I got to talk one-on-one with someone with a healthy enough dose of insanity to run for president. The parade of candidates included Bush Jr, McCain, Gore, Bradley, and a host of other cats who left no lasting impression to speak of. It was exciting because I had always desired to run for political office. I knew at some point in my future, I would be in their shoes.
Before you go getting crazy notions in your head, NO I WILL NOT BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. You know how they say never say never? I”m saying NEVER. My plan is to serve on a local level on school board, governor appointments, and possibly at some point a county office. I believe in serving locally because it is the local policies that have the most lasting impact on people’s lives.
We ought to engage politics because politics inform policies which inevitably impact people. — Eugene Cho
The day I was finally able to cast my ballot in an election, my life changed. I had finally fulfilled my part of the legacy of voting as a black American. This was hella significant because my childhood was spent watching the mass hysteria that black votes elicited in white America. I can’t count the number of times I watched Eyes on the Prize, subjecting myself to images of black bodies hosed down, attacked by dogs, beaten by police, and tortured by their good christian neighbors simply because they wanted to exercise their right to vote. And it was their right.
Ya’ll those images left scares that are slow to heal. But I can’t turn away from those images. I can’t erase the pain of those stories. Especially, when I see through current political agendas and politicians a desire to return to the time where it was law for people to tell black Americans we ain’t shit and we ain’t never gonna be shit. I learned at too young an age that my blackness meant I could have the right to do something and be denied the ability to exercise that right at the whelm of those with money, power, and influence.
So, why do I bother? Why do I get excited to cast my vote every election day? Because I matter. Because my opinion matters. Because my community matters. Because I know my grandparents and great grandparents suffered indignities I will never fully understand and their sacrifice mattered. Their fight mattered. Their scars matter.
I understand the temptation to say no matter what we do, nothing will change. As a black woman, I feel like we are constantly taking three steps back for every step forward. Some of ya’ll be doing the absolute most with the absolute least. But then I think about the wisdom of my soror (I’m a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated) and I get in formation.
“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ―
There is no such thing as a perfect union this side of heaven. We know the founders showed great promise and yet they fell so far short of the promise. People will always be people and as Ms Chisholm said, when “morality comes up against profit, it’s seldom profit loses.”
I vote every single time because I refuse to live in agreement with a philosophy that people are commodities. I refuse to live in agreement with a system that says some voices and some lives matter more than others. I refuse to live in agreement with the belief that I have no power to shape my world. I vote because I refuse to let the sacrifices of black people across the centuries of this country to be in vain.
In honor of their fight, pain, tears, disappointments, and victories, I vote. Every. Single. Time. I invite you to dig deep and figure out what you find worth protecting and make your way to the polls.
If you have questions about getting registered to vote, how to vote, where to vote, or how to get to the polls, visit Vote.org.