MLK Day: "Your Vote Matters"
Voting is Power By: Janiah Henry & Emaji Oliver
Emmett Till was visiting Mississippi for family at the age of fourteen. He was known to play many pranks. Although he was told by his mother not to mess with the whites, he still did so. On August 24, 1955, Emmett was dared to pull a prank on a white woman working at a candy shop as a clerk owned by her family. He made gestures when paying for bubblegum with friends. Four days later, Emmett was taken by the woman’s husband and brother. They beat him, penetrated his eye, and shot him in the head. They then threw him at the bottom of the Tallahatchie River. This was all because the white woman by the name of Caroline Bryant accused him of assault and harassment. Thankfully, Emmett’s mother didn’t go without telling his story. Because of this, his story went around the world and was taken to court. In 1956 Carolyn Bryant confessed saying, “I was never touched, harassed or threatened...nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”
Less than a century later, Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year-old African American boy, was visiting family in Sanford, Florida. One night, he was shot in cold blood while walking through a neighborhood at night after an altercation with a white man because he was perceived as “threatening” and “suspicious”. George Zimmerman, the white man who shot him, was tried and found not guilty of manslaughter and murder in the second degree. He claimed that he shot the boy in “self defense”.
Not only was the death of Trayvon Martin one of the initial unjustified deaths of our generation, but it was also the first time that young black teens of Twenty-first Century America collectively felt uncomfortable in their own skin. The same passion that we had when we were marching for Trayvon is the same passion we should have when marching to the polls. The only way we can bring change in our small communities is to start by changing our Senate, House of Representatives, and White House.
Martin Luther King was very influential. However, a large part of his legacy was lost. The reasoning for this is because the persecution of African Americans—as well as many other minority groups— is still alive and well today. The people in the highest power in our government, who make the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives, are the same people who want us pacified and locked in as second class citizens. They want us to permanently remain inferior politically, socially, culturally, and economically. They do this because they don’t want to have to share the opportunities, liberties, and freedoms that they enjoy with anyone else. Jim Crow and segregation may have been outlawed, but it takes many forms in our courts and even schools. Statistically, men and women of color are more likely to receive harsher punishment for the same crimes of that of white men and women(and you don’t need Wikipedia to know this fact). The bottom line is this: if we don’t fight for ourselves, no one will. In actuality, the moment that we stop fighting—the moment we give notion that we are “okay” and “satisfied” with the way things are—is the moment that we have already lost. One by one, our rights will surely be taken away from us unless we remain persistent in standing up for ourselves. All in all, our ancestors did not fight for our right to vote—they died for it.