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40 years ago Martin Luther King gave a speech to the American people. He had a dream. Part of that dream was making sure that not only African Americans had the right to vote but also that they had something to vote for.

‘We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’

Martin Luther King and many others, both black and white, gave their time, energy and often their lives to guarantee that African Americans have the right to vote, as well as the desire to vote. They fought, struggled suffered and often died with the hope of a future America, where Africans Americans were fully integrated into the political process.

As militant as Malcolm X was, he also knew there were 2 ways to bring about social change, the ballot and the bullet. Today, 69% of all eligible African Americans are registered to vote. That means 31% aren’t, a total of 7.5 million African-Americans. In 2000 the difference between Al Gores and George Bush’s vote total in Florida, the deciding state was less than 400 voters. Imagine if 400 extra African American voters were registered and voted? We might’ve avoided the war in Iraq and the financial meltdown!

Voting is not only important on the presidential level. If Barack Obama wasn’t voted in as a state senator by the people from Chicago, we might not have heard of him today. Voting on the local level is very important to make sure that social programs, schools and other programs are funded in your neighborhood. Several factors that affect the African American community can be changed through voting. Many African Americans are victims of racial profiling. Voting ensure that this issue will be brought to lawmakers and that can make a difference. This year many African Americans had their homes foreclosed. By voting for a candidate who opposes predatory lending we can avoid situations like that. Gun violence is a big issue in black communities. If we can vote on the issues and candidates that help keep the guns out of our neighborhoods, we can reduce the number of young black males killed every year. African American are also several times more likely to be arrested and convicted. Unjust drug laws disproportionately affect African Americans, leaving thousands of black males in jail and thousands of children with no fathers. Through voting we can ensure that African Americans are not unjustly or disproportionately incarcerated.

Today, we are at the crossroads of history. There are two paths that will take our country in two dramatically divergent directions. We, the American people, have a choice to decide which way the county will go. Our decision will affect ourselves, our country, our futures, the futures of our children, the world and the future of the world. WE cannot afford to just sit on the sidelines and see what happens, we must be involved. Can we afford to tell our children and grandchildren to say we had a chance to make a difference but didn’t register to vote? Can we tell them we had a chance at making change but didn’t want to take time out of our days and go to the polls?

Not only must we register to vote but we must make sure our friends family and co-workers are registered.

If you have to nag, argue, plead or beg to get someone to vote it’s well worth your time.

If you have a grandmother, grandfather or aunt who needs a ride to the polls take him/her.

If you know a friend who doesn’t believe voting matters, explain to them why it does.

Make sure your parents and family are registered. If your children are over 18 make sure they are registered and they vote. Your vote matters as much as Bill Gates, Jay-Z, or Oprah’s.

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