Many in the African-American community either have become or have always been disenchanted with the voting process. There are many reasons for us to feel that way. We become educated, we march, we fight for what we believe in, and we vote, yet where are we? What has voting gotten us? The issues we have with the voting process are not with the act of voting. The issues are with who we are voting for.
Local primaries across the country today have been infused with candidates who are not part of the establishment, most likely due to the grass roots success of Bernie Sanders who at the time that he ran for president, operated outside of the establishment.
Local elections directly impact voters in their daily lives, yet African American voters tend only to vote during presidential years.
Activists in Columbus, Ohio are supporting progressive candidates who seek to change the landscape of the city, hoping to be a model and catalyst for change across the country. There is a unique dynamic where 4 of the 7 city council members are African American, yet the needs of the community are met with lip service and not action.
The three black incumbents in the race have a commercial that says children have a brighter future, streets are safer with more jobs, but the local school system had 26,473 suspensions last year, the homicide rate is nearly double that of previous years, senior citizens are being forced to move to make way for a high-end hotel, and unemployment for blacks is more than 4x that of others. A commercial that pushes the message, “Keep Columbus Great” is eerily reminiscent of “Make America Great Again” at a time that many are suffering. They recently approved a $68 million tax abatement that developers pitched to them which robs the local school district of $46 million.
Only one of the other 2 progressive candidates for Columbus City Council is black, but many in the black community have recognized that voting blindly for black candidates does not guarantee that the community will benefit. The Yes We Can Columbus candidates, Jasmine Ayres and Will Petrik, are working to combat establishment politics that harm the black community. Columbus City Schools candidates, Erin Upchurch, Amy Harkins and Abby Vail are working to do the same with Columbus City Schools. Local elections directly impact voters in their daily lives, yet African-American voters tend only to vote during presidential years.
Get out and vote in support of people that will do, not just say, what you need them to do. Vote for candidates that answer to citizens, not corporate supporters who don’t care about everyday people. Voting can work for us when we use the system to serve our needs. Check with your local board of elections for more information.