By Keron Alleyne
You better go vote! People done marched, got their heads beat in so you could have this opportunity, so you better do it. Our ancestors died for you to have the right to vote! Quotes like these have been pelted at you and every other adult by politicians, pundits and so many well-meaning elders. Every four years the masses are bombarded with these quotes to the point where your responses may wreak of agitation and indifference. And if we’re being honest, you are either moved to vote or feel this exercise in democracy has largely become empty symbolism since voting in the past hasn’t resulted in the change you may need. A lot of people feel this way, and more often than not, this and a variety of other reasons result in a vote not cast. I want to be honest with you, no vote is still a vote.
Before you tune me out, I’m not writing this from the premise that this is your ancestral duty or some part of the social contract of good citizenry and I’m not writing this to guilt trip you into voting. I’m writing this as a political scientist, civics connoisseur and community organizer. In other words, I do this! And not every four years (the Presidency) or 10 years (the Census), I do this year-in and year-out. Every year you can make a difference by participating in your local community infrastructure and be knowledgeable of your local political landscape. Every year there is an election that you (no matter where you are) can participate in and make a difference. In fact, your local political seats might be so impactful that they can provide the tangible change you wish to see.
Next year in NYC (for example) the local [city] level seats such as the Mayor, Borough Presidents and more than half of the City-Council seats are term limited. This roughly translates into whoever is currently holding that seat cannot run for immediate re-election and thus the politics of the last 8+ years will be shifting. These changes might not seem like much but these changes can translate into funding improvements for your neighborhood parks, a new school, and a new voice that may listen to you. This local change does not happen in the White House, it happens in your neighborhoods all across the country. For these local seats there isn’t some electoral college to buffer the results like there is for the presidency. Your vote absolutely matters and is the difference in tangible change made around you.
I’m not telling you that this election isn’t important because it absolutely is. I’m telling you that when you choose not to vote you roughly cast a vote for the status-quo and for things to remain the same. When you only cast votes every four years then you are also dismissing real opportunities to make a difference in the lives of your children, parents and community. When you ignore community meetings, then certainly voting right now will not make a difference. To quote the great ancestor, Malcolm X once said, “We must, we must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what part politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature, we will always be misled, led astray, or deceived or maneuvered into supporting someone politically who doesn’t have the good of our community at heart.”
I encourage you to become politically mature. Go to the extra mile (run pun) for a community meeting to learn a bit more. Read that article for further understanding of the issues. Call your local elected to show them that their political stance is a representation of your future. Lastly, go vote – not just on November 3rd but every year because consistency is a difference maker as most runners know. In the words of the great street philosopher Nipsey Hussle, “the marathon continues”.