Marginalized communities are commonly neglected when it comes to having their needs met by legislators. However, these same legislators also ask the members of these communities for their support when election cycles come around. Today, grassroots organizations have made an effort to properly inform these community members on the importance of not only voting, but how to hold their legislators accountable.
This campaigning strategy is common–listen to the issues of those within marginalized groups, tell them that you are willing to address and solve their problems in exchange for their votes. However, once many legislators do get these votes from these groups, they typically do not follow through with their promises. For many people who are a part of marginalized groups, they may feel disenfranchised by the legislative and voting process, discouraging them to vote. After all, if they keep being disappointed with empty promises, then what is the point of voting?
While these feelings are valid, those who are a part of these groups are more important to the makeup of this country than they may think. In the book, The Marginalized Majority by Onnesha Roychoudhuri, the author discusses the power of marginalized voices in America, even when they feel powerless. Voting is used as an example of empowering these voices. While it is acknowledged that voting is not the only way to have our voicing heard, Roychoudhuri also emphasizes that it can make more of a difference than one may think. During the 2020 election cycle, several organizations, both grassroots and established, took on the role of registering people to vote and to inform people on the issues plaguing our country and how they will be affected. In Boston, one group that has taken on this responsibility is Black Boston, a new grassroots organization that was created in May of 2020 by three Black college-aged women.
Their initial objective with the group was to address and protest against police brutality, specifically referencing the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The protest that they had organized in June of 2020 had hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, more people than they had anticipated. But the group grew quickly in popularity, leading them to create more solid ideas and objectives for their organization. They first decided on addressing systemic racism and racial disparities in Boston, since there is a hidden history on Boston’s role in racism. But one of the organization’s other goals was to register people from marginalized groups to vote in the 2020 presidential election.
With Black Boston’s Political Advocacy team, they decided to create infographics and resources on the organization’s social media pages to first inform people on how to vote. As a member of the political advocacy team, I attended weekly meetings to brainstorm with the rest of my team on how to register people to vote, especially since we are in a pandemic. So, we decided to create short and simple flyers on the voting process in Massachusetts and how to register to vote and safely canvas around parts of Boston. Some of these areas included Davis Square, Haymarket, and Roxbury. I went into Roxbury Square with another member of my team to speak to people (safely) to pass out these flyers and to have quick conversations with them if possible. The area that my team member and I went into was predominately Black and Latinx. While I was nervous about canvassing (it was my first time), most people were very open to having conversations with me and to also express their concerns with me. I met some people who were homeless and who asked about the voting process for them since they did not have a permanent place of residence, as well as young people who had never voted before and who had little to no knowledge on how to register to vote. While this was a rewarding experience, it was also one that was eye opening as well. One man that I had spoken to, who was actually a community organizer spoke about the disconnect that legislators often have with their constituents, adding to the distrust that many community members may have. If you cannot make the effort to connect with your constituents on a deeper level then how can you ask them to vote for you?
Politicians should not be using people for votes, plain and simple. They have a job to do their due diligence to meet the needs of their constituents and to make them feel heard. Without doing this, there is no point to their positions. As voters and Americans, we should be able to hold our legislators accountable for the promises that they make. Accountability is a big theme during this election cycle and it is easy to see why. Constituents are getting tired of not being listened to and they are now taking matters into their own hands. They are recognizing their power and the ability to enact real change. Through organizing and other means of activism, we have the capability to create the society that we want to see, even if it means applying pressure onto legislators. Voting is only one part of a much larger equation to making an impact but it is a great start.