We have willingly given up our power…
I purposely waited until Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to view the movie “Selma.” I thought it would be appropriate on that day, after hosting the inspirational Hope Breakfast (sponsored by the Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.) to honor Dr. King’s legacy and remember one of his many epic accomplishments. The movie “Selma” was more than what I expected. I have never watched a movie that made my entire body react. I laughed, I cried, I was angry and out right disgusted, but I left inspired to do more in my community.
It is always hard for me as a woman of color to see depictions of people like me being beaten and denied their rights, but that’s not what hurt me while watching Selma. What hurt me is the fact that people literally fought, bled and died for us to have the right to vote. Understand that when I say “us,” I am talking about all of us. Regardless of your ancestry, someone fought, died, or traveled across seas for you to have the opportunity to live in freedom and to have the power to control who governs you.
Over the last several years, I have witnessed much discontent with the American government and justice system. I too have been very frustrated with the decisions being made for us without our input. So much so that I decided to run for office. I understand that it is disheartening to witness the gridlock in Frankfort and Washington, DC, to live in a time where police stand in riot gear in American streets with rifles pointed at citizens gathering in peaceful protest. It breaks my heart to even watch the news from time to time. I strongly suggest that instead of reacting, we get more proactive and take our power back.
Well, what power do we have? I’m so glad you asked!
One of the great pictures painted in the movie “Selma” is the power of organizing people and the power in voting. I greatly believe that there are systemic oppressors in place that many at the top use (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to sustain their power and to keep the weak in a place that’s comfortable. But what happens when people willingly give up their power by refusing to vote? I will tell you what happens: we continue to live in a society where we are governed by people who only care about our best interests in election years. When people of all ages and races decide not to vote, bad things happen and bad people get elected.
Now, I will use my district for example. In District 32, there are people of all ages, religions, races and socioeconomic statuses. There are some of the most highly educated and some of the wealthiest folk in my district. But, on November 4, 2014, 19,000 of the 36,000 eligible to vote, stayed home. Why is that you say? Many of the responses I got at people’s doors was that they were sick of politics, that they didn’t believe their vote mattered, that they didn’t care for either of the candidates at the top of the ticket so it was a waste of time. These comments nauseate me because although I can understand them, haven’t those who have come before us, demonstrated that engaged citizenship changes things? The peaceful marches, community groups making it a priority to organize and educate voters, and those voters taking the initiative to make it to the polls on Election Day changed things. Elected leaders knowing that their constituents are watching their every vote changes things!
At the Hope Breakfast, Judge Erica Lee Williams noted that we all seem to be waiting for the next MLK or the next JFK; the next someone to be the face of the movement toward justice and equality for all people of this country. My grandmother always told me, “If you say someone ought to do to something about that, that someone is probably you.” I no longer suggest, but petition to you that we wait no longer. I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and step up to be one of those leaders. Are you? #Selma