Sam P.K. Collins opens one of his many All Eyes on D.C. shows at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Friday night with an affirmation. The intimate crowd joins Collins and the mood is set for an open dialogue about the power of the Black vote and a breakdown of the political tools for liberation and political self-determination.

Collins started conversations like these as a commitment. The commitment was to give a different perspective. He considers himself a liberated man whose purpose is to spread education.

The event — titled “Why Should I Vote?” — honed in on the larger long-term strategy to concentrate Black African political power in the District.

“We’ve dedicated ourselves on outlining every aspect of the Black African struggle by bringing people in here who can talk about and contextualize our struggle with what they do in the industry,” Collins said.

Guest speakers included Dr. John Cheeks, reparations advocate and Anise Jenkins, D.C. statehood activist.

With perhaps the most sensationalized election in history, many people of color found themselves disconnected from President Trump and Hillary Clinton and chose not to vote at all. In the 2016 presidential election, the Black voter turnout declined from 2008. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 61.4 percent of African Americans cast ballots in 2016 and there was a similar percentage in 2012. But this still falls below the 63.6 percent of African Americans who voted in 2008.

“It’s rough when people feel so disengaged that they either vote for the lesser of two evils or sit out of the process altogether,” said audience member Rafi Amanpour. “It’s actually rather sickening when all that it takes is a return to basic civil rights strategies where the community grooms the types of leadership we need to specifically address our concerns. Hiding our heads, sitting on our hands, or waiting for someone else to fix things, equates to giving up.”

As politics continues to inform and run parallel with education and gentrification policies, these concerns also took center stage in the larger discussion and deconstruction. Speakers reminded listeners that gentrification has impacted Black African neighborhoods all over the globe, and that liberal political education in public and charter schools often works to accommodate white supremacy.

“We have to reimagine and remix our political education so that it suits our interests,” Collins said.

After digesting all the information, there was one reeling question in the room: how does the Black African community find reform in D.C.’s political climate and beyond?

“Black people have to stop allowing life to happen to them and actively advocate for their own survival,” said Zuri Abbott, a Howard University political science graduate student. “We have to challenge our ANC reps, our council members, our mayor, or educators … anyone sleeping on the job, needs to get a resounding, deafening wake-up call that we are not going to allow ourselves to be abused.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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