They say that behind every great man is an equally phenomenal great woman. As our First Lady continues to prove, the Obamas are no exception. Addressing the Congressional Black Caucus‘ annual awards banquet last weekend, Michelle Obama not only delivered a moving speech, but she eloquently reminded us of the struggles of our past, our achievements, and the challenges that still remain. She told the crowd and the nation that despite our tremendous progress, we must continue to fight against the injustices of today. To the folks who may be taking this election and the process lightly, the First Lady reminded everyone that voting rights is the movement of our era.
For many people my age and younger, it’s easy to sometimes forget the sacrifices of our parents, grandparents, and ancestors. It’s far too easy to take voting for granted, and far too easy to complain about things without actively working to create change.
For those who weren’t around to see the water hoses, the dogs, the police batons, the lynchings, the church bombings, and many other intimidation tactics, it’s way too easy to think that casting a ballot is no big deal.
The fact remains that if you do not know our history, and if you do not understand the amount of perseverance and dedication it took to make things like the Voting Rights Act happen, then you can easily believe that voting doesn’t matter. But just stop and think: if that were true, why would there be such a massive effort to suppress the vote across the country right now?
The National Action Network (NAN) is currently on a “Voter Engagement Tour” that is traveling to cities/towns around the country to educate people on new voter laws that have been put in place in dozens of states. Since last year, our fearless leader, Rev. Al Sharpton, has been raising awareness on the dangers of harsh voter ID laws, elimination of early voting days, and more. As the Brennan Center for Justice has estimated, nearly 5 million people may be disenfranchised from this election because of these voter suppression methods.
This is, without a doubt, the sit-in of our day and the march of our time just as the First Lady reminded us over the weekend.
As a woman and as a person of color, I don’t take voting lightly. Growing up, my parents not only taught me the importance of civic participation, but they also made sure that I understood how Blacks, women, and other minorities were excluded from the process.
They shared stories of marches, jailings, and killings; they told me of the countless sacrifices that allowed you and I to do this today. Over the weekend, Mrs. Obama reminded us as well. She told us that the House that the First Family has the privilege of living in was built in part by slaves.
Look at how far we have come — but don’t forget the roadblocks that are here today.
There was a massive Civil Rights Movement that secured our ability to vote and be treated as equals. It was made up of Blacks, Whites, men, women, and even kids who marched, rallied, and organized around the cause of justice.
We need to do the same today: While people try to take away our vote, we have to keep on fighting to make sure they don’t. We have got to register to vote, educate ourselves on what laws might impact us where we live, share that information with others, and help people get to the polls this November.
The movement has begun. Don’t get left behind.