Globally, 2020 was a year of the uns - we can undoubtedly agree that the year was unpredictable; marked with uncertainty, fear, unemployability, social isolation, and unknowns. In addition to the global pandemic, within the US, we experienced a resurgence for social justice reform and an alarming number of tragedies including the highly publicized deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, along with underpublicized others, which regrettably remind us, why reform is necessary.
The two major political parties of Democrats and Republicans competitively sought the seed for power in federal, state, and local governments; campaigning in elections, which were historically deemed insignificant in the equilibrium for power. On both sides of the aisle, our political climate became unapologetically polarized, as candidates capitalized on the totality of a long, arduous stretch of Covid-19 fatigue with unparalleled exposure within underprivileged communities, an uncompromising number of lives lost, high rates of unemployment, social unrest, and an unfulfilled economic recovery to bolster their constituency base.
In recent years, several classifications of voters have emerged, which led to an unconscionable amount of expenditures for marketing campaigns via television, social media, print, direct mail, robotexts, and robocalls by campaigns, who maximized candidate exposure for voter conversions. The majority of the voters are loyalists, who remain committed to their parties and usually, their votes cannot be swayed. There are other voters, who have become disheartened with the majority parties, so they cast their vote for independents or the other less influential parties. Lastly, there is a substantial percentage of the population, who do not typically cast a ballot because they remain unconvinced that their individual vote matters, so they remain uncommitted. Unequivocally, our government is complex and bureaucratic, however, as voters, we elect those politicians, who are best suited to represent our beliefs and values, as a body of voters.
Although my sister and I learned about democracy in school, it was our parents and other elders in our families, who demonstrated their unwavering principles of our civic duty to vote. As children, throughout the year, we observed family members canvas neighborhoods to register voters or work at poll offices on Election Day to count ballots. In every election, they voted to give sound to their voices, which encourages me to exercise my voice, each time I cast my vote. Parallel with the importance of education, career, and family, we inherently learned that voting was paramount to our future. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to write personal, handwritten letters to uncommitted voters, I eagerly accepted the challenge to connect with the population of voters, who underestimated the significance of their individual votes.
Prior to the 2020 presidential election and during a FaceTime call with my friend, Leslie, she excitedly turned her phone to show me piles of her handwritten letters, which were drafted to unlikely registered voters, who lived in preselected battleground states. She thoughtfully explained that research indicates that individuals are more likely to vote, if they receive a handwritten letter, or a testimonial from an unknown person. Leslie's enthusiasm for her stockpile of 250 letters engulfed me with regret that I had missed the opportunity to more actively engage in such a historic election; an opportunity to drive bi-partisan restoration in a country that remained deeply divided.
Unbeknownst to me, less than a week later, I received a rallying cry from @Vote Forward to adopt a list of voters to share my personal story, in hopes that it would inspire them to cast their individual ballots. As I read the short introductory paragraph, I immediately recalled the words of my friend, Leslie, when she excitedly shared with me that the research proved that handwritten letters profoundly influence people to vote. In less than 24 hours, I had registered, adopted 100 hundred voters, purchased supplies, written letters, addressed envelopes and lastly, stamped, sealed, and mailed them to four different states including my home state of Michigan. The provided letter template from @Vote Forward emphasized the value of using non-partisan language, with a gentle reminder not to assume that voters agree with our political views. In a high stakes election of win or lose, we simply asked people to cast a ballot, so their voices could be heard, as part of our democracy.
As I addressed each letter to the named voter, I imagined that we had an intimate conversation, a dialogue between two people. For instance, there was a voter named James in Alabama, who shared the same name, as my beloved late maternal grandfather, who was born in the South. In three sentences, I had shared that my grandfather had been illiterate until adulthood because Jim Crow laws would not permit him, as a young black boy the fundamental right to an education. My father, Joe, who also grew up in the segregated South, had a similar experience. As a child, I did not comprehend their insistence on the value of education or their inexpungable rule for operational excellence. However, as an adult, in my letter to James of Alabama, I fully acknowledged and hopefully communicated, so that he understood, the indissoluble relationship between governmental policies and equal opportunities.
Although my insatiable competitive spirit to surpass Leslie’s achievement of 250 handwritten letters remained unquenched, I experienced pure joy, as I reflected on my personal contribution; the tenets of democracy succinctly shared in a couple of sentences.
I'm voting this year because "my parents, taught my sister and me that our vote is our voice. My voice demands change, which is only possible, when I cast my vote."
After the November election, I recall my resolve to somehow contribute more to the conversation of change. Friends and family reassured me that I was an active contributor by mentoring, assisting in food bank donations, and paving the way of possibility for future leaders, who aspire to career achievements without limits. For the January 5th, Georgia Senate runoff election, I adopted 100 more voters and once again, I excitedly shared my personal story in handwritten letters. Who would choose to remain silent and proxy their voice to another, when it is their time to speak?
We have surpassed the four month anniversary of historical voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 Georgia Senate runoff election, and yes, my soul still overflows with pride. Despite our personal anguish in the year of the uns, we persevered and recognized the importance of using our votes to give sound to our voices. As women, we marvel that Kamala Harris, our Vice President, shattered the ceilings of many firsts with the most notably mentioned of gender, race, and origin, which should not diminish the remaining distinguishable attributes that define her person. Habitually, I remind myself that as individuals, we grow on a foundation rooted in family, faith, education, and personalities that is fertilized with experience, circle of friends, exposure, interests, and a host of character traits.
As we restore our lives in the new normal, my optimism clings to hope that our humanity will be restored, so we can appreciate our similarities, while we celebrate our differences.