DEAR READERS: I am taking this time today to encourage every single American citizen who is 18 years old or older to vote. I am not writing to tell you who you should be voting for, only that I beg you to use your precious right and go do it.
I sometimes think that we have become too complacent in our country, making assumptions about how the world will work even if we have no say in it. But the reality is that we are blessed to live in a democracy where the people's voices count. This is not just true about some people. It is not reserved for rich people. Or white people. Or people who live in certain neighborhoods. Or any other group that you might want to delineate. The pure right to vote has been fought for by thousands for many years.
Starting back in the days when slavery had just ended and Frederick Douglass and others were fighting for the rights of recently freed Black men to vote, the struggle has continued. It took literal blood, sweat and tears to achieve ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted Black men the right to vote. It was with the efforts of suffrage advocates like Susan B. Anthony that the right for women to vote was won with the 19th Amendment 100 years ago. It took until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act (nearly 100 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment) for all Black people (presumably) to be able to vote. (Listen to the podcast "She Votes!" by Ellen Goodman and Lynn Sherr for an amazing history lesson on suffrage. You might also watch "The Fannie Lou Hamer Story," a one-woman show by Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye about a Black woman who was beaten repeatedly for trying to exercise her right to vote 60 years ago.)
And yet, even today, as in years past, there are many roadblocks making it difficult for folks to cast their ballots. Gerrymandering and redlining could be affecting us right now. Have your district lines changed? Can you find your polling station? From literacy taxes of old that required odd and impossible puzzle challenges before people were allowed to cast a ballot to burned ballot boxes today, the ability to exercise your right to vote is not guaranteed.
And yet there are pockets of light. In several states, for the first time, formerly incarcerated people convicted of felonies have regained the right to vote. Perhaps this will reach a groundswell over time. (Read more here: www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/03/politics/we-count-texas/index.html).
If you take a moment to recognize how hard so many people fought to make it possible for every one of us to vote, you might be even more energized to cast your ballot today. Your voice matters, whether you are 18 or 89. Your voice makes a difference. Your single vote can affect the course of history. Cast your ballot and be an active part of our future.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.