Black Power is Black Votes

Commentary on the Day of the Primary Elections

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Image: courtesy El Jay'Em

“Black power is black votes, if we want to stay in our neighborhoods we must vote,” says Mrs. Stancil, a 92-year old Elder and more than 30-year resident of Southeast.

“I encourage all citizens of Wards 7 and 8 to come out and vote. Ever since I marched with Dr. King, I know being black is a political responsibility,” she adds. “I know that voting is my political vehicle for my voice to be heard, to make my city better for future generations to come.” 

In 2018, being Black has transitioned from being dehumanized as a slave to being a political statement. And with recent elections such as the special crimson Alabama election between Democratic Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore where Jones received 96% of the black vote, it shows that Black Power is Black Votes.

In Washington DC, 478,688 residents are registered to vote. However, the DC Board of Elections only counted 312,575 total ballots; meaning 65% of registered voters voted [in the last election]. 2017 Census data show an increase in the District’s Hispanic population (8% to 11%) and increase of whites (31% to 36%). Since 2000, the black population has decreased from 60% to 48%, strengthening the #DCNATIVES movement, which is about blacks still being the majority and chocolate city still intact.

Despite votes from Blacks only accounting for 12% of the total popular vote nationally, votes of Blacks are the deciding factor in many swing states and the most impactful votes in local elections.  The 2016 local general election between DC Council At-Large Robert White (D) and David Grosso (At-Large I) is an example of when east of the river votes were a decisive factor: the black vote in full swing. The primary race between incumbent LaRuby May and challenger Trayon White in Ward 8 was decided by just a few hundred votes with less than 1/4 of the voters casting ballots.

With Juneteenth approaching and with local elections in the district in full swing, Southeast holds a strong political strategic advantage.  Wards 7 and 8 being comprised of 94% Black Americans, citizens east of the river have strong political leveraging voice with their vote in the upcoming elections.

Gentrification is at its highest in Southeast, with recent events such as the removal of Wilhelmina Rolark’s name from the historic United Black Fund building in Anacostia. It is more dire than ever before that the Black voters of Southeast utilize their advantage point to reclaim their city and make true positive change for a better quality of life.

ANC Commissioner Sharece Crawford (8C03), who is running for State Committee Woman in this upcoming election, stated at the recent #STEAMTHEBLOCK festival, “Ward 8 has the lowest voter turnout in all of the local wards.”

Ward 8 has 55,205 registered voters. During the 2016 DC Council At-large race 28,227 ballots were cast from Ward 8.  “They counted us out, but they couldn’t count,” says Commissioner Crawford, referring to the true black power which is the power to vote. Crawford continued to speak about the importance of voting and why citizens have a responsibility to their community to vote.

Survey data state that one of the main reasons black voters don’t vote is because they believe  their vote doesn’t matter. That belief couldn’t be more incorrect. In one-on-one races such as the Democratic Council Chair race between Ed Lazere and incumbent Phil Mendelson, the votes from Southeast will be the deciding factor to who wins.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love,” says Dr. Martin Luther King.

It is time for the citizens east of the river to use their political power to channel their love for the community.

El Jay’Em is a We Act Radio talk radio host, educator, change agent, community activist and advocate. She can be reached at LJM@swaligafoundation.org.