Reason #3 to vote: local elections matter and votng is just the start

A common phrase that I hear is that “voting doesn’t change anything.” I think that’s really false, but I’ll agree that electoral politics don’t change enough. Is that a reason not to vote? I don’t think so and neither does Kevin Powell, writer for Vibe magazine, former MTV The Real World contestant (wtf?!?) and currently a congressional candidate from Brooklyn, puts it really well:

From back in the day to my campaign now, I cannot begin to tell you how many people, regardless of age and background, who do not understand electoral politics at all, be it the presidential election every four years, or local races like mine. In fact, I would argue that local races are far more important because they directly impact the day to day lives of our communities.

It is local electeds who determine what kind of money and resources flow back to our communities, what kinds of businesses and industries come, or don’t come, what kinds of schools we have, and so on. So part of my mission as a leader in these times is very serious political education, not just getting folks to vote for me.

We’ve got to cease being a nation of hype. That is, we get hyped for a political candidate because she or he is younger, hipper, hip-hop, or something like that. And that is simply not good enough.

As I sat in that Denver stadium the other day listening to Barack Obama with those other 80,000 people, naturally I was very proud. But I also thought to myself I have been a part of incredible movements before, back in the 1980s when folks like Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan were moving millions of younger people. And there still has not been, for me, no single more incredible gathering than the Million Man March in 1995.

But we need movement in America now, a progressive and multicultural movement of people from Generations X and Y. Young people who understand hip hop and pop culture in general, technology including the various handheld devices and social networks, the history of America and the world on at least a basic level, contemporary issues on at least a basic level, and are able to relate to a range of people, because they are culturally multilingual.

My point in all of this is that this is so much bigger than me or Barack Obama. Because after I get elected and Barack Obama gets elected we are still going to have racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, religious intolerance, ignorance, poverty, a terrible healthcare system, wars everywhere, including in Iraq, a polluted environment, mediocre public schools, and so on.

So younger people, of all backgrounds need to do what some of us did back in the 1980s: Jesse Jackson and his campaigns for president were the spark for our activism, for our social awareness, but then we took upon ourselves to become full-fledged leaders because we began to understand voting was just a piece of the work that needed to be done.

And that is the case today, too. Young Berg, the new hip-hop artist, asked me recently when was this CHANGE Barack Obama is promising going to happen? My response was simple: When YOU become the change you want to see, when YOU make it happen, when YOU understand the leadership we are waiting for is US. That is the message we need to be putting out there very clearly to young America.

You can read the entire interview with Kevin Powell at Bigger Than Hip-Hop :: A Q+A With Kevin Powell.

Take care,

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