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Voting Rights movement marching for change

Your Voice, Your Vote

Zaneta J Smith
Nov 5, 2018 · 3 min read

On a Sunday LA afternoon, while visiting my grandmother’s house and after her glaze over of the LA Times, she says, “I don’t understand why people your age choose not to vote. I don’t have that luxury.”

She’s right…and wrong. (Sorry Grandma Dee).

The luxury she speaks of comes from growing up in Mobile, Alabama from 1930 until the early 1950s. She was born just 10 years after Black women received the right to vote, suffered the Great Depression, and faced major barriers when it came to simply registering to vote. While my grandmother does not speak much about her past, I can only imagine what she witnessed.

In the 1964 Testimony to the Democratic National Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer details walking 20+ miles to vote only to be met with literacy tests, police, and fines. Then, returning to the plantation with threats of losing her job if she did not unregister. She refused to unregister and lost her job that night. Bullets hit the house of the plantation owners and others associated with Ms. Hamer. Did that stop her? Clearly not. Her moving testimony, courage, and persistence made her a spokeswoman for the civil rights movement….lighting a fire under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which advocated for removing the barriers to voting that were rooted in discriminatory practices.

This is what my grandmother meant by the luxury of having an option to vote. People fought, bled, and sacrificed their lives so that I can leisurely and proudly take myself to the ballot on November 6th to vote in peace. And I’m only lucky because I live in Los Angeles, my voting place is a predominantly black, gated community and the precinct is run by community members who make it a seamless process.

Luckily, my grandfather gave my grandmother two options in the late 1940s— New York or LA. She chose LA and thus, bred a legacy that I bask in today. I often wonder what if my grandparents did not have the opportunity to leave. I would be in Alabama still battling voter suppression with voter ID laws, lack of early voting and same-day registration.

Enter the part where my grandmother was wrong about millennials not voting. According to Power of California, “[young]…people of color in California are motivated, civically active, and potentially politically underestimated.” Forty-nine percent rank voting as the most effective way to make a change. Not only are millennials voting but we are civically engaged with 50% of young Californians participating in major social movements such as Black Lives Matter, Environmental Justice, and LGBTQ+ equality.

November 6th is the day to remember what those before us endured and fought for so we can cast our ballot for change. On Tuesday, my head and heart will be remembering and honoring the 1965 Selma Voting Rights protestors.

California has many propositions and candidates running. If you have not voted early, you have one more day to get informed, educated, and plan your schedule for voting on Tuesday.

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