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By: Roy Douglas Malonson, Publisher of African-American News & Issues & Author of column series We MUST Understand

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “Even when the polls are open to all, Negroes have shown themselves too slow to exercise their voting privileges. There must be a concerted effort on the part of the Negro leaders to arouse their people from their apathetic indifference… In the past, apathy was a moral failure. Today, it is a form of moral and political suicide.” I couldn’t agree more with the late Civil Rights leader. This is one of the reasons that I often write and talk about the two most powerful tools that we as a people have, “our money” and “our vote”. Therefore, we should be careful who we give them to, because whoever we give them to are amongst those that we empower.

If we were to embrace true Black history, we would find the vitality that lies behind the power of the Black vote in America. Although we Africans living in America have yet to arrive to the place where civil justice and equality is a total commonality within our communities; the truth is that we have still come a long way from where we first started in American culture. However, the road that led us to our current place in society has not come without a cost. Our ancestors suffered vicariously for us to be able to obtain civil liberties that those who do not look like us were born with.

We MUST Understand that there is power and strength in numbers and unity. Even though we know that one person can make a difference in society, the cohesiveness of many united together for one common goal and cause is enough to speak volumes to the world. I have heard many people say that my vote does not count and they are going to elect who they want to elect anyway. This foolish mentality is one that has taken root in the minds of many of our people and is used as an excuse for not voting. Contrary to this misconception, I am here to let our readers know that you do have a say, as well as some control in the things that surround you and the leaders that are sworn in to serve you. But, first you must activate your powers through voting.

Too many people from our community take for granted the rights that we currently enjoy. As it is, too many people have suffered and died for us, as African-Americans to have the right to vote. We MUST Understand that when bonds are proposed and elections are held within our communities, counties, city, state and nation and we forfeit the opportunity to participate, in essence we are telling those who fought and died in the Civil Rights movement that their sacrifices meant nothing to us. Furthermore, we are surrendering our voice and letting the nation know that we don’t give a damn about our future, community or rights.

We MUST Understand that it is all about unity and when Black folks step up, we can control who gets elected. We have the power to help make decisions regarding those things that affect us the most, but we have to get involved. We have to let people know that we do care about what happens to us and the generations that are to come after us. The latest example of what I am trying to stress here was recently demonstrated in Alabama. In one of the nation’s most red-neck states there is, a Democrat was elected. People got, “sick and tired, of being sick and tired”, pooled together and exercised their right to vote and their voices were heard. This is the true implication of what unity can do when people are on one accord, with one purpose.

Just last month in the Senate election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore, the power of the Black vote was exemplified through a procession of Black leaders and entertainers. Influential leaders from our community rallied together, at an attempt to support the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, Doug Jones. As a result, Jones was victorious in the election. Even in a race with a controversial alleged sexually immoral Republican, the win was still a close call. Yet, it was the Black vote that made the difference. According to CNN’s exit polling, 29% of the Alabama electorate was compiled of the Black vote. Of that percentage 96% of Black voters supported Doug Jones. I believe that it is also equally important to state that the overwhelming majority of that number was attributed to Black women. Representative Emanuel Cleaver shared with CNN a factor that some of us have been known, but, many have neglected to act upon. He said, “The numbers from Alabama opened the door, and now the world can see what has empowered the progress that African-Americans have made since 1965.”

My point in stating these things is to show our readers that it is vital that we exercise our right to vote. I will conclude with stating a message that I once saw on a billboard. It said, “Every election is determined by the people who show up.”