Black votes matter and with the highest degree of certainty and without debate, so do black people. During each election cycle, candidates are highly qualified to reach Black communities for our votes. That they show up just before election day is something we can absolutely count on – it never fails. We never fail either. Black woman and Black men – all black people show up. We are running despite repression and voter intimidation. We show ourselves risking disease in the face of a pandemic and all its unknowns. We show up for them, hoping, even praying, that at some point these candidates will show up for us, delivering on decades-old pledges, pledges and promises. Too often, our biggest issues of civil liberties, voting rights, and economic fairness are the last to be addressed and first on the chopping block.
Yet even after black voters show up and demonstrate our unwavering reliability at the polls, more often than not, elected officials lack the capacity to be equally hitched and fall short of our commitment. Our social, political, psychological and physical lives depend on our ability to show up at the polls. We show up in every election cycle as if our lives depended on it because the truth is that no one has more to lose than us, and we really need our elected leaders to be accountable to our collective interests. But what are our collective interests? It is of the utmost importance for black people to organize, shape and advance our own political agenda – a black agenda. The Black Census Project allows us to take this first step in the development of our program.
The Black Census Projectled by my sister and friend, Alicia Garza, and powered by Black Futures Lab (where she is Founder and Director) will become the largest black survey in US history if we can hit the 200,000 mark. Which means if 200,000 black people say we deserve to be heard and counted in a survey crafted for our interests and through our people, we write history!
Black people met to discuss our political program every year before emancipation. On January 16, 1865, General William Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, infamously known as “40 Acres and a Mule.” This political prescription came directly from members of the black community. General Sherman met with 20 black leaders in Savannah, Georgia, to discuss a plan for how newly freed black citizens would move forward in a post-Civil War, post-furniture slavery society. In this discussion was a plea for complete freedom from white domination, a willingness to be properly educated, and a grant of arable land. What we do know is that when President Lincoln was assassinated, so was our plan to gain some sense of parity.
The last time we met to craft a political agenda that resulted in elected officials and candidates signing pledges was fifty years ago in Gary, Indiana, during the National Black Political Convention. We can look to this convention as a guide to how we meet and present our agenda. Black people from all social classes, political parties and spiritual practices – including Amiri Baraka, Bobby Seale, Louis Farrakhan, Barbara Jordan and Jesse Jackson – have come together with one effort in mind – to impose a demand on our elected officials.
Many of the issues raised then persist today. They wanted more widespread community health centers, the elimination of capital punishment, the establishment of a robust health insurance system, and a living wage.
This is why the Black Census is extremely important. Our goal is to reach at least 200,000 black people across the country to assess what matters most to us as a people. For us to be powerful in politics, we must control the agenda. It is exhausting for black communities to be left behind in education, housing, health care, employment and entrepreneurship. Historically, black colleges and universities and schools in predominantly black communities have not had adequate funding to support our students. Yet black women are the most educated demographic in the country. Affordable housing remains a widespread problem, as there has been an influx of homeless encampments in cities like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The infant mortality rate for black babies and women is higher than for non-blacks. These inclinations are due to structural racism and bad policies. We must demand more from our elected officials. It is incumbent on us to draw on the wisdom and strength of our elders and ancestors to demand the implementation of policies tailored to our needs and desires.
It is not only our duty to fight for our collective freedom, it is our duty to win. It would be reckless and irresponsible of us not to fight to ensure a life of true freedom that our ancestors hoped for. We must constantly pursue a life of social and political well-being for ourselves and those who come after us. We can’t afford to go back and in all likelihood that’s where we’re headed if we don’t activate
Democracy is at stake, and it’s clearer than ever that our hard-fought constitutional rights and freedom are at stake. We see it with the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (1973); with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022); and the banning of specific historical texts in several states in the United States. Since 2021, voter suppression laws have been enacted in at least 21 states like Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida, all under the looming shadow of white supremacy that seems even more unbearable since the January 6, 2021 terrorist attack on Capitol Hill. They work overtime to destroy and hinder our progress. We must defend ourselves and protect our own interests!
With the midterm elections fast approaching, I urge you all to participate in this democracy by voting on November 8, 2022. We hear it all the time but it remains true: if your vote had no importantly, they wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to take it away from you. Voting is the threshold of democracy, so I need you to go further. Show you matter by completing the Black Census at BlackCensus.org before November 30, 2022! Completing this survey is an act of resistance and a claim to our power. It’s OUR time now.