Lift Every Voice and VOTE!!!

Hispanic voter voting in polling place
Hispanic voter voting in polling place

"Lift every voice and sing, til Earth and Heaven Ring, Ring with the Harmonies of Liberty"-Negro National Anthem

Voting is one of the great American rights that we have to maximize our voice as an individual, and maximize our strength as a people. We as Americans know that every 4 years we are electing our President of the United States, every 2 years we are electing our members of the House of Representatives and every 6 years we are electing our members of the Senate. These are the voting procedures on the Federal Level.

Governors vary from state to state (In my home state of NY for example, it's every 4 years), then we have our State Assembly and State Senate, State District Attorney, State Comptroller. Moving on down to the city level, we have our mayors whom we elect, our city comptrollers, city D.A's, City Council, and all others along the political ladder (again, it varies from state to state, city to city). Every American who is born, naturalized or have earned their status to become a citizen of this great nation has that God given RIGHT to vote.

I am sure we all can remember the elections of 2008 and 2012 when we made history and placed an exclamation point on it, by electing our nation's first African-American President of the United States not once but twice; Barack H. Obama. I recall specifically in my neighborhood of Crown Heights that I got up early to vote around 7:00 am. My local voting station was so packed full of people who were waiting patiently and eager to cast their vote to be a part of history; people were so excited and full of joy as they were preparing to vote for their next president. It was indeed a beautiful sight to see the people in my community come out to vote and be on long lines to make their voices heard.

I specifically remember 2009, which was my city's election year, we were electing our next mayor, public advocate, comptroller and other city council seats that were up for election; I came to my voting station and I couldn't believe my eyes. I would say less than 10 percent of the crowd that I had seen a year ago wasn't even there to cast their vote. I was very disturbed by this, for voter turnout in my community and other African-American communities were very low. I saw this as a major problem.

I remember speaking to my fellow classmates at Brooklyn College and we had a great dialogue about why African-Americans don't stand together on different issues that affect us. I asked the question "do we utilize our power politically?" and some responded yes when we vote for our president; others said no. Then I asked the question, "Why do you think our elected officials don't take us seriously"? I stated that because they don't take us seriously and this leads me to the point of this subject.

I strongly feel that we as African-Americans should not only look at voting as a right here in this country, it should be a MANDATE that we go out to the polls and vote. Take a look at this example of a polling/literacy test that our parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents had to endure to have the right to vote. These are some of the questions I discovered:

1. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence
2. In the line below cross out each number that is more than 20 but less than 30
a. 31 16 48 29 53 47 22 37 98 26 20 25
3. Draw a triangle with a blackened circle that overlaps only its left corner

These literacy tests were used to keep African-Americans from voting and they were administered at the discretion of the officials in charge of voter registration. If the official wanted a person to pass, he could ask the easiest question on the test; the same official might require a black person to answer every single question correctly, in an unrealistic amount of time, in order to pass.

Really think about that for a moment, these were individuals who were just trying to exercise their right but because of fear, they had to go through tremendous obstacles to prevent them from voting. That shows the power that we have if we come together politically and make our voices heard in whom we elect, from the local level to the president. It is extremely crucial that we honor those who have sacrificed, been humiliated, beaten and even died for us to stand on the line to vote. We owe it to them; therefore it's more than a right, more than a privilege, it's a MANDATE!!

By voting, we show how true Black lives matter, because we can elect who we feel will do the job in representing us, and if they fail to do it, vote in another candidate...and another candidate...and another candidate until we have the right representation that will advocate for our communities, especially on the local, city and state levels. I vote because I honor the generations who came before me to ensure that I have that right to vote. Research the candidates, and look at who will represent you, your household, your block, your community, your city, your state and your nation. We should no longer make excuses because despite what we may think OUR VOTE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!! You cannot know until you try. Vote!!