Black and Tired but I Still Gotta Get Involved & Vote

Hey Guys, this is Part 2of a special guest feature post from my girl Lillybit! If you haven't had a chance to read Part 1 (10 Ways to Overcome Reasons/Excuses to Not Vote) I would urge you to go check it out.  Hopefully, you all will enjoy, while learning in the process.😀
    • About the Writer: Lillybit is a typical American citizen of the Black diaspora living in Maryland. She has recently been compelled to research ways to become more active in her local community during this crazy year of 2020 and wants to bring others along for the journey. A big fan of Issa’s “Insecure” and Ethiopian food, when she is not researching American history and local governments, she is studying languages and reading works by Black sci-fi authors.
So Tired of Being Tired

        If you are Black and anything like me, these past few months have been stressing-me-out on so many levels. Not just because of COVID, but also because of what people of color are experiencing in this country. When I walk into my required spaces, it’s just conversations about COVID. It’s as if people don’t want to touch the topic of the heightened racial issues in the U.S. When I think about the future of people with my skin color, I ask myself “Who is gonna have our backs, if people aren’t admitting/aware that there is a problem?” My answer to this question is to “Learn how we can have our own backs. Find ways for us to be effective in changing things at the state and county, a.k.a. “local” levels. It’s not all about the Presidency.”



A Brief History about Black people and Voting in America

        I feel many of you may already know this but let’s just do a quick review…

        In 1868, Black people obtained citizenship with the 14th Amendment, but then Congress had to pass the 15th Amendment in 1870 to make White people stop turning Black voters away from the state polling places. But it didn't stop there. Black people endured voter suppression in the forms of poll taxes (this is where you have to pay a tax in order to vote), literacy tests, and thuggish “poll workers” who would prevent Black folk from casting our vote. These acts went on for more than 50 years especially in (but not limited to) the South. Someone even had to make a little book called “What a Colored Man Should Do to Vote”.

        In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights activists’ work were able to get the 24th Amendment passed which prohibited the use of poll taxes and then the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which made the Attorney General enforce the laws so that Black people could vote. Then in 1993, we got the National Voter Registration Act which requires states to permit mail-in registration, and it makes registration services available at the DMV’s, unemployment offices, and other state agencies.

        It’s 2020 and we still face voter suppression tactics that aim to decrease the Black vote in ways such as VoterID laws (which are just a new form of literacy tests), closing of polling places (which make it difficult for people to go out and vote because they have to travel farther to find a polling place) and making it harder for people to do absentee ballot voting.

Want to Learn More, check out these sites:
  1. https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/elections/voting-rights-african-americans.html
  2. https://www.ivotecef.org/timeline 
  3. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act
Coronavirus: Primary election sites set and voters may vote in ...
People worked hard so I can have the Right to Vote; I Vote so I’m done, right? WRONG!

        If you want to see actual change in your community you need to go one step further and,

                Get Involved in your Local Government!

                Get Involved in your Local Government!

                Get Involved in your Local Government!


        My friend sent me an article by Sheryll Cashin that looked at the city of Baltimore and how the Obama Administration in 2014, offered Maryland $900 million dollars for a project to build a subway line called the “Red Line”, a project that would have connected thousands of Black Marylanders to better jobs and create a comprehensive transit system that might restart the Baltimore region’s economy and improve race relations but...

        “The $900 million has been returned to the federal government. The state of Maryland redirected             $736 million of state funds originally set aside for the Red Line to building roads instead — in             predominantly white areas. And the U.S. Department of Transportation, which was supposed to             investigate whether that decision was illegal and discriminatory, quietly closed the case without             making any public findings.”

        I read this article and asked myself,
    • How could this have been prevented?
    • Were not enough people paying attention to these meetings about where these funds were being dispersed? 
    • What happened with the investigation at the Department of Transportation office?
        Then I pondered,
    • If I were living in Baltimore, what could I have done to try and get this Red Line built?
    • Were enough citizens there at the legislative meetings to raise their concerns and issues on where the money was going? 
    • Was there someone paying attention to what was going on and informed the people in their personal group to say “Hey everyone, this is what is happening right now at the State’s legislative level.” 
    • How many other things are being passed on that would benefit communities of color because we aren’t present?
        Questions like these have been my motivation for my journey of finding out what is going on at the local levels of my county and trying to understand the processes and issues with the goal of sharing it with others. It is a long process. The legislative council Zoom meetings for my county are less than enticing but I feel like I need to be aware and see what these council members are doing so that I can in turn, make people aware, so change has a better chance of taking place.

        Some people have said to me that starting down this path is a hopeless cause and that it doesn’t matter because in the end the people with the most money are going to “win”. To this I say that it can’t be the absolute truth of the reality and that change has to start somewhere. And while I know that I have a hopeful, idealistic mindset right now, I am not detached from the awareness of the hard obstacles that I will encounter in this process.

        With that all being said, it would be helpful to a sista, if I didn’t have to do it all on my own…



A Call to Action

        What can you do?
  • Find out if you are registered to vote in the General Election. Do this today. Not tomorrow. Not November 3rd or 4th. Open up another tab and check now. Also, look and see if you are able to do absentee voting if possible. https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote
  • Look up the date and time of your next neighborhood meeting. Text a friend right now and ask if you both can go or log into the neighborhood ZOOM meeting together. It’s so much better to do these things with a friend. Why? Because it is soooo much to take on by yourself. Also, it will be more convenient, since most of the meetings are online because of COVID-19.
Ending on a Positive Note

        To be honest, researching the history of Blacks voting in America is one of the most depressing, tiring, but also uplifting activities. I always have to remind myself, if there has been all of this effort put into disenfranchising us to vote then, by default, my vote must truly matter. And if my vote matters, then my opinions matter, but to create an informed opinion I must pay attention, get involved (and get others involved) at the local level and be hopeful, so Black communities too, can thrive. Finally, balance is key. Here are a couple of positive and happy things I’ve come across so far on my journey!

    Positive WebSite Number 1

    Positive WebSite Number 2
  • The Pennsylvania Prison Society is a long-standing organization dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system. By providing prison bus services, offering reentry services and newsletter subscriptions for current and former offenders, the organization advocates for the rights of those affected by incarceration. Donate today like $10 for a year! Put it in your monthly budget!
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Comments

  1. OMG! Yet again, this post just sheds light on what is near and dear to my heart! Civil Rights! The Suppression of Black votes has gone on long enough! I am still trying to educate myself on voting rights, my local and state representatives, etc. It is exhausting to think about all that is wrong in the world! But it is also exciting to learn so much!

    I also read the article about the Red Line and as a Baltimore City teacher, I'm not even gonna start with how I feel about the racism in our current local government down to the school board, but I will say that I had the same questions. How can I assist in making sure that these things get addressed? I want to get involved! Be on the front lines.

    COVID-19 has unleashed a new level of voter suppression in the Black Community but we cannot back down. Thank you Lillybit for encouraging me and others to get involved! Like stated previously, clearly if our vote is worth being suppressed it's worth something! And I am not in the habit of giving racists what they want.

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    Replies
    1. Yes Britt! The process can be exhausting and feel non-inclusive for people who look like us which is all the reason why we need to get involved. I took the advice of Lillybit and researched my local representatives. I also signed up for my county's council newsletter to help stay informed on issues that are being discussed and upcoming meetings. I know it's not enough but it's a start.

      Delete
    2. Yes @sdot it feels like it is only the start. I attended one of the legislative meetings of my county and it was pretty boring and long, but I gotta keep up with up it. @Britt it can be a lot. It’s like where do you find the time to continuously educate yourself when you have everything that you have going on with your life/career. Have you come up with any strategies to help keep you informed on what’s happening in your community during this crazy time?

      Delete
  2. This post is so good and right on time! 🙌🏽🙌🏽

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Sharon. It definitely feels like it was needed to get off my chest. Have you encountered the experiences I’ve talked about here? Or notice people around you who may be experiencing these things?

      Delete
  3. I can imagine it is so frustrating to hear everyone talk about covid but not racial issues. Lucky for me I haven't saw that many people but I do have really strong conversations about race and the treatment of black people with my friends. However, I am dreading going back to work in a predominantly white office as a black girl. The fact it was so different for black people to vote for so many years makes me so angry. This was a very helpful and informative piece of writing, it is great that you ended on a positive note too! x

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    Replies
    1. I feel you Shar. I too work in a predominantly white office and while we are currently working from home we did have a group office text chat to keep-in-touch. The weekend after protests started for George Floyd, it was extremely frustrating to see the topic in the group text surrounded around whether or not people should have to wear masks! I had to remove myself from the group chat.

      I'm glad you found this post to be informative, Lillybit did an amazing job!

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    2. @thelifeofshar yea, the positive ending to my posts have grown into a standard now for anything I write because when I deeply reflect on ‘the situation’ it can be so depressing and mess up the whole rest of my day. The ‘dread’ you mention. I assume you don’t mean it like in the most hardcore of ways, but what is it about going back to one of your required spaces where you are the only black person in a white workplace triggers those feelings in particular?

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  4. I write about social, racial and environmental justice, as it’s all connected, because when I moved to America I was struck by just how bad things are here with racism (systemic and individual). I’m a White woman from Britain and have found I’m having to educate my fellow White people about what is literally in front of their faces and many know what goes on and how the systems of power work here but they just choose to turn away. And as for Covid-19, many White people want to ignore the fact that racism permeates that too either through discrimination within healthcare or how it disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous communities. The murder of George Floyd has been an extraordinary catalyst for action but as White people, we have to take responsibility for how it’s got to this point — that police can kill and do so with impunity. I cannot even begin to understand the tiredness you feel and the emotional labour it takes to share the education you have, so thank you for what you have done.

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  5. @Molly yea all of those aspects are all related. And sometimes it takes leaving where you are from on a country level (or even on a city and state level) to see the system that oneself resides in and how one may be unconsciously supporting that system, then take steps to change that system. As for your fellow Brits that ‘choose to turn away’ *sighs* that’s annoying and I don’t really have much else to say on that aspect. And to your last point yes it’s very tiring but needs to be done. Oh actually here’s a question? What do you do when you are so frustrated that your fellow white British citizens display their apathetic responses? What does the relationship(s) that you both share turn into and how do you navigate it?

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