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Voting While Black

Hello, I’m Johnicon George Sr., owner of Icon Connects, LLC. Welcome to the Real Social Change Blog.

Thomas Mundy Peterson was born on Oct. 6, 1824, in Metuchen, New Jersey. His greatest achievement was being the first African American to vote in an election.

In the 1800s, slavery was law. Even free-born Black Americans, while afforded some rights, still had little or no access to education. As such, Peterson likely began working when he was a child.

The 15th Amendment granting Black men the right to vote was adopted into the U.S. Constitution in 1870. It stated: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

On March 31, 1870, Peterson voted in a local election in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Some say that after he cast his historic vote, a White man ripped up his own ballot out of anger and did not vote again for years.

The Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments legally freed Black people and granted us citizenship rights. However, by the late 1870s, discriminatory practices were used to prevent Black people from exercising their right to vote, especially in the South.

It took nearly a century to restore Black people’s access to the ballot box, but not without bloodshed, humiliation, and the loss of many lives.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, aimed to outlaw legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black people from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment. This critical piece of legislation banned literacy tests, provided for federal oversight of voter registration in areas where less than 50 percent of the non-white population had not registered to vote, and authorized the U.S. Attorney General to investigate poll taxes used in state and local elections.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders witnessed the long-awaited signing ceremony.

The Voting Rights Act is undoubtedly considered one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. No other law has been passed specifically for Black people, which brings me to question why reparations for descendants of chattel slavery in the United States has yet to pass.

Why both Black and non-Black elected Democrat officials have not made reparations a legislation priority?

“Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts concerning reparations, America will never be whole,” an elder wrote decades ago.

But then, why haven’t we, as Black people, stood on our square for a specific transformative Black Agenda that would solve many of the challenges Black Americans largely face? And would move our community forward, not our personal agendas and interests?

Why haven’t we demanded a public verbal commitment to the Black community from our politicians? That includes meaningful, tangible, and specific action items (again, reparations, to name one) that would repair the inequalities historically imposed upon us.

Why haven’t we leveraged our vote even in Solano County?

Instead, we allow the Democratic Party to keep pushing the same ole mainstream programs and policies that merely maintain the status quo and control us to accept them.

Many of us blindly vote Democrat without implementing any political repercussions if our demands are unmet. Others of us succumb to identity politics like the “first Black” rather than pushing for substantive policies as a priority.

It’s no wonder the Democratic Party assumes the Black vote, takes the Black vote for granted, and disrespects the Black vote.

Why wouldn’t they!?

I’ve always been considered a “swing voter.” During an election year, I would vote for Democrats and Republicans based on one ticket. I made my decisions on the candidate’s commitment to my community.

It wasn’t until Donald Trump entered politics spouting hate speech, openly disrespecting women, third world countries and their leaders, and our neighbors on the southern part of the border — while other Republicans stood by in silence — that I haven’t voted for a Republican. I believe silence is consent.

I protested the Presidential section of the 2020 General Election because I could not come to grips with selecting the “lesser of two evils.” When I shared my voting decision with my shero, she gave me excellent advice. She said, “God never asks us to choose evil. He tells us to seek Him first and His righteousness. These things taken together will be added unto us.” We need not fear what anyone can do against us.

Black Americans, as the election season heats up, it is about damn time we unify and leverage our Black Vote by demanding that if political candidates want our vote, they must publicly articulate steps they will take concerning our agenda.

We must continue demanding a Reparations/Black agenda package at the local, state, and federal levels. This legislation will help the Black community (both male and female) to achieve economic self-sufficiency and self-empowerment.

We must hold all elected officials accountable, exercising zero tolerance if they do not keep their campaign promises, neglect and/or ignore our community, and refuse to eliminate the Black-White wealth gap in America.

Some viable strategies may require us to leave the part of the ticket blank that bears their names, consider another political party willing to push our agenda or begin implementing the necessary steps to form our own party.

The Black Vote is valuable only when followed by planned and organized action steps that we initiate collectively after the polls close.

The Real Social Change Blog is a community blog. Please feel free to submit DEI topics you want to see discussed. If your suggested topic is selected, you can choose an Icon Connects SWAG bag or a $50 value MARY KAY gift basket!

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See you next month!

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