It is extremely encouraging to know that Black Women had the highest voter turnout in 2008, but also not surprising considering that we were voting for Barack Obama – the first black President! We came out in droves. However, the thing about Civic Engagement is that it must be consistent and those constituencies that have their needs met are those that are the most vocal (and the most active).
I had a first-hand experience with our political system in 2010 and 2011 because my husband ran for Alderman (City Councilman) in the city of Chicago. We lost by a mere 300 votes! We ran because we looked around our community and knew that something had to be done and we believed that we had the passion and the creativity to solve some of our neighborhood’s problems. Although we lost the election, we are still very active in our neighborhood and have even started a Civic Engagement initiative (which you will hear more about in 2012, I promise!).
One of the issues that we have as black people is that we don’t have a central agenda to mobilize around. We all know what the issues are – but we have yet to come together across socioeconomic, regional and gender boundaries to force legislative action on our issues. I was very excited to see Representative Maxine Waters featured in the January 2012 issue, and the magazine printed a list of our (black women’s) critical issues for 2012. At the bare minimum, you should at least vote in each election, but take it a step further. I challenge you to choose one of the issues below that matter to you, and actively following the issue in the media, contact your elected officials to sway them on the issues and at the end of the year, be prepared to have a conversation about your issue & your newly found political power.
Courtesy of Essence Magazine – January 2012 Issue
Black women had the highest rate of voter turnout of any group in 2008. Now here are key issues that will affect our communities and our votes this year:
1. Jobs – Last year the unemployment rate for Black women hit 13.8 percent. For Black men it peaked at 19.1 percent. Last October the Senate killed Obama’s American Jobs Act. This year the President is breaking out key aspects of the bill, pushing for incremental votes that may help you.
2. Health Care – By March the Supreme Court will hear a dispute arguing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Make sure your lawmakers know where you stand on this issue. Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121
3. The Mortgage Crisis – If you were among the 4 million home owners who were foreclosed on improperly in 2009 and 2010, call 888-952-9105 to have your case reviewed.
4. Education – The President announced new rules for low-performing Head Start centers to compete for federal education funds. Visit whitehouse.gov for more information.
5. Voter Suppression – Onerous voter registration measures pending in about 30 states could keep some of us from the polls. Contact your board of elections now to find out what’s up in your state.
For more information about the Federal U.S. Government – click here: http://www.usa.gov/