Our presence must be felt at the polls during, local, state and federal elections. We can no longer continue to have a nonchalant attitude towards politics. We must become fully vested in the political process, starting first with our vote! Politicians must earn our votes. The days of someone getting our vote, yet lacking receipts of any earnest or sincere efforts of working within the community or advocating for black issues should be over – regardless of what party affiliation they are with. Our ancestors died for our right to not only vote, but to use our vote as our voice and to do so responsibly.
Furthermore, we must not allow racism or racists to continue to dictate policy. Our ancestors were not full of fear. They were courageous and stared racism and all of its ugliness square in the face and marched onward. I was reminded of this while attending a City Council meeting. There, Fred Winters, stated “I’m 75 years old and I think have one more fight left in me” Mr. Winters is not your average 75 year old though. “He is held in high regard with the SEIU Public Services Union”. “He also led the Sanitation Strike in 1968 and is well respected as one of the Local Pioneers of Civil Rights and Economic Justice for workers in the City” . Mr. Winter’s comment came after he laid out the city’s history of erasing black culture with projects such as, Jamestown, the Gas Plant District, the interstate and now the Deuces. Mr. Winters also mentioned how important it was to not be silent during this last move by the current Mayor and his selection of the tenants for the Manhattan Casino.
Also, we must resist the urge to be influenced by celebrity and religious endorsements of candidates. Just recently, Former President Barack Obama allegedly endorsed Rick Krisman for Mayor. A Democratic mayor that supports gentrification in the name of “business development”. Then you have some prominent black church clergy vouching for the current mayoral candidate who happens to be the Former Mayor, Rick Baker- a Republican and avid supporter of the racist Donald Trump. Crumbs have been confused with progress. (I’ll leave that for another post).
We have a shared responsibility as voters and that is to do our due diligence in thinking for ourselves and electing candidates that we have researched and given approval of. Organizations of old have been compromised and their stamp of approval regarding various issues and candidates must be looked at closely. Here are a few issues that responsible voting can solve:
- Gentrification – people that allow businesses to come into a community and create deals most favorable to them while ignoring the needs of the immediate community are most often elected officials (City Council Members). For a most recent point of reference, research the Manhattan Casino Project. The Burg Votes and the Tampa Bay Times have covered the topic extensively. A good documentary to watch for a greater understanding of gentrification is titled “The Black Miami”. It’s available at Amazon.
- Local utility rates and tax increases for city services. The decision to increase both is often made by elected officials. For a most recent point of reference, research the Sewer leakage debacle. The Tampa Bay Times covered this event extensively as well. Because of the failed leadership of all mayoral administrations to appropriate adequate funding to properly maintenance the storm water/sewer system tax payers are now on the hook for the expensive and extensive repair of the system. Environmental racism is real and criminal in some cases. The decision to dump thousands of gallons of toxic waste water into the bay and bayou was made by elected officials. (City Council Members and the Mayor). Are you familiar with the Flint Water Crisis?
- Fair representation at the School Board level. The decision to reassign and not suspend without pay a Pinellas County School board employee who made disparaging remarks about black children was made by elected officials (School Board Members). Proper representation at the administration level is very important. Your vote influences these outcomes.
- Gerrymandering- fixing districts to ensure that the voting bloc supports certain candidates. “Florida is the third most gerrymandered state”. This is problematic because typically the votes will always favor one party. Gerrymandering has led to a Republican stronghold of the state. The problem with this is, Republican administrations overwhelmingly have a tendency to support and enact legislation that’s often detrimental to the black community. Does the “Stand Your Ground Law” sound familiar? The impact of gerrymandering can also be felt here in St. Petersburg, Florida. The act of drawing up the maps is done in part by elected officials (state legislators). Read more about gerrymandering here
I get it that some people feel that voting doesn’t matter. However, if your vote doesn’t matter, then why do some go to great lengths to suppress it? You don’t suppress something that is powerless. You pay taxes here, voting allows you to have a say in how your tax dollars are spent and influence various policies that impact you as a citizen. If you are unsure about how or where to vote, particularly in Pinellas County, visit the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website. The website is rich with information regarding the voting process. For updated information regarding this years municipal elections in St. Petersburg, The Burg Votes is a great resource for candidate research. I encourage you to do your research and vote responsibly.