Ensuring the Voices of Government Reflect the People They Represent

It has been more than a month since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the highly militarized and repressive police response to the rallies and demonstrations that came in its wake. The scenes still seem misplaced, as if taken from a history book illustrating the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. Yes, in 2014, 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, African-American and Latino communities are still fighting to end systemic discrimination, and for the inclusion of our voices and concerns in the national dialogue.

There are Fergusons all over the country. In many cities, discriminatory, abusive, and unconstitutional policing threaten the lives and dignity of black and Latino people. Our families and loved ones are disproportionately subjected to unwarranted and invasive stops and searches; inhumane treatment in deportation and detention facilities; and in the worst circumstances, deadly attacks.

United in our struggle, we must work together to strengthen our political power and hold public officials, law enforcement, and the media accountable to our concerns. With a growing number of elections decided by the power of black and Latino voters, and national leaders paying more attention to discriminatory and violent policing than they have for years, we are in a historic moment as we head into this mid-term election, where the nation's attention is focused on these police abuses. There is a path forward for creating long-lasting change in the injustices targeting communities of color, and it must begin with making sure elected officials speak for us.

A key ingredient to increased political power for Latino and African American communities, is increased civic engagement -- ensuring that the political decisions made by Congress, state legislatures, city councils, and mayors reflect the voices of those who are most impacted by these decisions. For too long, key decisions have been made based off the concerns of people who historically hold the most power and who do not reflect our community, which means less funding for our schools, the ever-growing criminalization of our communities, and continued discrimination.

If we are willing to work together and build together, blacks and Latinos have the opportunity in the coming years to build the type of momentum and power in upcoming elections to ensure our leaders reflect aspirations of our communities. But we must make sure we're registered to vote and ready to participate. While we hear every day how important November elections are, we must also remember that there are elections throughout the year that matter just as much. Ferguson's municipal elections, for example, are held in April. In order to decrease the possibility of more Fergusons -- where 70 percent of the population is African American and yet the mayor, police chief, and 50 out of 53 police officers are white, we need to be registered to vote and ready to make our voices heard loud and clear.

This is not just about electing black and Latino leaders to local, state and national office, but also holding those leaders accountable -- setting an agenda and building the type of power to ensure policies and laws reflect our values and needs.

Voting alone will not solve all of the attacks we face, but it will absolutely move us one step forward towards long-term change, and ensuring a safer place for our sons and daughters, regardless of the color of their skin.

As oppressed communities, we are often on the outside looking in. In order to truly change the system, and the many infirmities it currently has, we need to build political power -- and we must build it together. And it starts at the ballot box. ¡Ya Basta! No more Fergusons.