The start of 2020 brought more than setting intentions and crushing goals. It brought on the most important election season of our time. As soon as the high of a new year wore off, the candidates turned up the heat on campaign ads, commercials, debates, and caucuses.
We launched into the throws of issues and policies so fast that it could make your head spin. To make things even more complex, candidates started dropping out of the Democratic race just as soon as you learned who they were. It's enough to drive you crazy, but it is too important to ignore. I don't know about you, but all of this sparked questions for me like:
- "Where does this candidate stand on gun control?"
- "Whose policy works better for eliminating student loan debt?"
- "Which candidate is going to address black women dying at an increased rate during childbirth?"
- "Who is willing to approach immigration with a reasonable solution?"
I felt overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.
At this point, the best thing to do is create a strategy and research the issues important to you as much as possible.
You don't want to get up on Election Day and walk into the voter's booth (or whatever the social distancing alternative of that is) clueless about candidates' platforms. Even worse is avoiding action in exercising your right to vote at all. It's a very powerful asset of your citizenship to the country, and it should be exercised with as much knowledge as possible. If we learned anything from the 2016 presidential elections, black women have been tasked, whether we want it or not, with the responsibility to save the election and the country.
Since we know we get out and vote, we need to use that power to encourage others to vote as well.
One voice that has risen above all the others, especially for black millennial women, is that of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). She has become the Auntie we've all needed, with a voice that unapologetically tells it like it is. Earlier this year, around the time of the State of the Union address, Rep. Waters hosted a media row for millennial outlets to come and meet with Democratic representatives to ask the questions that matter most to us. Rep. Waters is on a mission to get young people as involved in politics on all levels as possible. She sees the need to have us in the room to affect change for future generations. Essentially, Rep. Waters is creating room at the table for millennials and we are here for it.
Here are a few quotes from members of Congress on what black millennials should consider as the 2020 presidential election approaches:
Rep. Al Green (D-AL) on the importance of voting and being prepared on Election Day:
Image via Congress.gov
"I'm a 'senior millennial.' But voting is very important for all of us because it's a participatory democracy and that means every person of age can participate to vote. One of the things that we have to do is assure our friends and our neighbors that their vote will count. That's something that we in Congress have to take up as an issue. We have to educate our people and let them know that if you were going to have to have this birth certificate, let's start early.
"Let's not wait until Election Day to try to go out and apply for the things necessary to vote because you can vote with a provisional ballot in some states.
"I tried that in Texas, went there to vote without my ID so that I could test the system, and as a part of testing the system, I had to get a birth certificate so that I could get the state-issued ID. I sent off for the birth certificate some years ago and I still don't have it. I'm from Louisiana and I was trying to vote in Texas. Texas requires that you have that birth certificate with a photo ID.
"It's also very important for us to register people who are not registered to vote. For the people that are registered to vote, but they're not, we need not embarrass people, we need not say things to them about the things that they should have done and haven't done. Let's take a positive approach and give everybody the opportunity. Every vote will count."
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on black women millennials taking the lead in voting:
Image via Congress.gov
"I look at black women like I look at good quarterbacks on the field. Good quarterbacks have to have the ability to see the entire field. They know where all the players are, they know what everybody's doing, they know the strengths and the weaknesses and then we strategically make the decision, right?
"We keep up with everybody, and it does not surprise me that when we look at voting, that commitment doesn't surprise me--that black women lead the pack--and being the most reliable voters because we understand the consequences. When we have good leaders, great things happen.
"Bad decisions impact African-American communities and families more than anybody else. And so black women, when we lead, when we speak, people listen. When we lead, people follow. We've got it. We are not going to be denied. And I think if we are serious about turning this country around, then black women have to be at the table because we have the ability to see the field differently."
On black women millennials taking their place in government positions:
"We are now in the boardroom, we're on the sidelines as sportscasters--we're doing it all. We will not be denied. And I will say this: Know your power. I think one of the biggest fears is that we will know our power. Because you know there's that self-talk: You're not the right color, you don't have the right name, you don't know the right people, all of that stuff. But what about the negative self-talk we sometimes do to ourselves? I'm not smart enough. I'm not bright enough. I don't know the right people. I need to wait my turn. What does that mean? Or I need to pay my dues. What does that mean? We have to learn to just take the lead because when we look at the state of our country right now, we need young, sharp, smart, fearless black women."
Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) on using your uniqueness as an advantage, not a hindrance:
Image via Congress.gov
"We (the Virgin Islands) and Haiti are the only two places in the Caribbean that have won our freedom through violence. And so that kind of informs how we act. But I think the other thing personally that causes me to be the way I am is that I've always kind of been an outsider. I've always felt like kind of an outsider, but someone who still needs to lead.
"At Choate [Rosemary Hall], I was president of my class for three years, and I just feel like, although you may be an outsider, you have a lot to offer. And you can circulate in a way that others can't. I think I've tried to do that here in Congress. And that's really how I've tried to operate. I've tried to get a lot done in a little bit of time.
"So just remember, as we forge ahead through this political landscape, your voice matters---you matter. Your vote matters even more, and it is your right to be a part of this process. The issues affecting our community need to be lifted up and heard, and black women have that power. It is up to us to be the leaders and the change-makers that we need. When you go to vote this year, keep in mind your core values and select the best candidate that aligns with those things. If you want your voice to be further amplified, call your local government officials, question them, and make yourself known. We are powerful and can change the world."
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