A few weeks ago, former Governor Deval Patrick took his ceremonial "lone walk" out of the Massachusetts State House to cap-off what had been a historic eight years as the first African American governor of a state that is roughly 83 percent white. On his last day in office there was not much national attention, fanfare, or even recognition for Patrick, who worked his way up from the tough streets of Chicago's South Side to Harvard University to the highest office in our nation's oldest commonwealth. Patrick's departure leaves our country without a single African American Governor and comes at a time where our Congress is only 8 percent Black (two senators and 44 House members). Although these numbers in many ways represent progress, they inversely depict how much work we still have left to do.
As the "Black Lives Matters" movement commands the American consciousness, I hear many of my friends, brothers, and sisters discuss how activism and civil disobedience are the "true" ways to create change. While that sentiment is correct marginally, I often think this new, and powerful "BLM" movement overlooks a critical issue, and that is the lack of political representation for African Americans. It's no secret that many of our nation's racial injustices are systematic and endemic to larger structures, so I am always a bit troubled by what seems to be a lack of attention to not only encourage, but ultimately elect more African Americans and minorities in general to public office. We have to understand the deep mutuality that exists between activism and politics. Our activism is only as strong as the elected officials we have representing and advocating for us. This is especially true at the state and local levels where the most damning pieces of legislation for African Americans such as, "Stand your ground laws," and "Voter ID laws" have been passed and enacted by state and local legislatures.
As we push forward with our movement to build a country and a world that values people of darker hues just as much as folks with lighter ones its important to remember that protests, die-ins, and social media activism are only one part of the solution. We have to be more deliberate in getting our fellow Africans Americans engaged in the political process as well as inspired and prepared to pursue public office. Yes, Black lives matter, but so do our voices and representation.