On this day in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was killed by Ku Klux Klan members J.W. Milan and Roy Bryant after being taken from his great uncle’s Mississippi home. It is sad that many of our young people do not know this story. It is also sad that young, unarmed, Black men are still being killed in various senseless situations. The date has changed, civil rights and other laws are now on the books, yet they are applied differently to poor people and people of color.
So what can you, your family, friends and community do to help reverse this trend and get equal justice under the law?
Glad you asked!!
First, we all need to get educated about how the system works. Once we know how the system works, we can clearly see how to hold our elected leaders accountable. For example: If you do not like the way the police treats you or their response times, you need to vote your current mayor out of office. The mayor appoints the Police Chief. Get a new mayor, and you will get a new police chief.
Second, if you do not like how your community looks or you are dissatisfied with city services, you need to: 1) let your City Council person, county, and state officials know, 2) attend your local community meeting(s) at least once a quarter, 3) get to know your neighbors and work together to put pressure on local elected officials (there is strength in numbers), 4) if you do not get the results you seek (after following the complaint process), work with your neighbors and community organizations to vote against your current elected official(s). Because you are now attending your community meetings, you will meet like-minded people who are working to make positive change. Several of these people, or you, will become future candidates. Now, you will get to know some of the people on your local ballot.
Third, realize that the answer to most of our problems stem from our low voter turnout. Those who show up to the polls in large numbers win elections. Case in point, 1.3 million African-Americans chose not to vote in Georgia’s 2014 November elections. Three quarters of a million (750,000) are registered and did not bother to vote. The other six hundred thousand are eligible and did not bother to register to vote, even though most can register online if they have a Georgia drivers license or state I.d. if one-third of these 1.3 million would have voted, we would have elected Jason Carter as governor. And, he would have expanded Medicare which would have expanded healthcare to tens of thousands of Georgians and brought us thousands of “living wage” jobs.
Though our problems seem overwhelming, most of the solutions can be solved by using the power of the vote.
As we continue to see stories of poor people and people of color being treated as bad as we were during slavery, we can take the advice of Nelson Mandela: ‘Don’t get mad and don’t resort to violence…vote.’ For the next election, Mandela was on the ballot and the people were in line in the hot sun all day long waiting to cast their ballot. Mandela won by a huge margin over numerous opponents. If we choose not to use our power of the vote, we will continue to suffer Emmett Till-like tragedies.
For those who argue that all politicians are crooked. My response is, the crooks always seem to be able to raise money and get their supporters to the polls. It is the honest folks who think like you think who cannot get the money to get their message out. And often after elections, those honest folks are frustrated and in debt.
And, in most mayoral and other local elections, voter turnout is usually less than 20 percent. That means 20 percent of the people are deciding who will represent all of us. Does it make sense to you that 80 percent of the people complain that their vote does not count, that is why they do not vote? Does it make sense that in recent special elections in Atlanta and DeKalb county, voter turnout was less than seven percent? Does it make sense that many people in those areas said they were not aware there was an election? Yet there were campaign signs all over neighborhoods, especially at major intersections. There were also lots of church, television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, and community announcements/postings and forums. So with all of our social media and old school methods, in 2014 and earlier this year, people were still saying they did not know who to vote for or when those elections were held. Does that make sense?
However, when we decide to use our power of voting, our situation will change dramatically. So now, let us use technology to help us know how to engage, just as these same people use technology to find out where the best Black Friday sales are and line-up the day before to make sure they get the deal.
Let’s do this and get involved in changing the paradigm so that on this day in 2016, we will be in a position to know who to vote for and when to vote …not just for president, but for everything on the two-page ballot. We owe it to ourselves. We have to actively and consistently seek monumental change. It is all in “the plan”. So, if you do not plan and execute, you will become a part of other people’s plan.
Don’t you agree that this is a simple plan that cost you nothing but time?
Is there any reason why you can’t use the power of your vote and encourage those in your circle , to do the same?