Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr Creative Commons

As we quickly approach the 2016 general election, there has been a general sentiment of political melancholy in the Black community in particular given the impending exit of President Barack Obama in January.

The fire and fervor with which the Black community became awakened and involved during the last two general elections has been more splintered and far less impactful during this general election cycle. President Obama’s tenure has left a sense of disappointment in our community, in turn leaving many Black people far less confident in our political system. Many see the last two terms as having lacked substance with many of the same concerns that President Obama promised to address during his presidency going unaddressed, and some even becoming exacerbated.

What’s lacking is the proper perspective, not of what was accomplished by ‘our’ president, but what was accomplished by our people. With more than 45 million Black people in America as of the 2010 Census, we carry a large political stick. With only 64 percent of eligible White Americans voting in the last general election and Mitt Romney having only lost by nearly 5 million in the popular vote, imagine the scenario had Blacks thrown only 1/3 of our 16.5 million democratic votes in the other direction.

Markus Batchelor, candidate for the Ward 8 State Board of Education seat, chats with a constituent. (Courtesy photo)

We have a vast resource of unity within each and every Black community across America. Behind a united front at the polls this November, we can send a message to the political universe that we are here, we are united, and we are taking real steps toward real accountability within the political system. No more photo ops and cameo appearances during election season, and no saxophone playing and ‘Amazing Grace’ antics for vote. We as a community can establish a new standard of governance through our political voice. For the first time since such numbers were published by the US Census Bureau in 1996, Blacks voting outpaced White voting by more than 4 percent in the general election. Imagine if we were able to produce an 80% turnout.

Our participation can’t stop at just showing up. We have long since shown our collective desire to support our own cause. However, for decades we have lacked the intelligent leadership needed to see actual solutions. We have sung, we have marched, we have begged, we have even exercised our right to vote but why have we not yet seen the longstanding progress we seek? I believe it is because we have not taken proper stewardship over our own communities. We have championed the voices of those who have promised liberation to the Black community and all oppressed communities, ultimately bringing little to none.

It’s time for us to no longer place leaders on a pedestal for our representation but rather become actively informed of the inner workings of our communities. We all have city council men and women and town and district representatives. Week after week, there are agenda meetings and proceedings held within each and every state governed region within this nation. Yet, these meetings go unattended and the agendas go unchallenged. Council men and women who chase career objectives couldn’t care less about the long-term viability of the Black and poor communities.

They’re simply looking for easy resume builders. They know 6,000 votes in a district of 40,000 eligible Black voters can win someone a seat. Yet, we want to point the collective finger at others when we have yet to intelligently address these issues ourselves. The Black community is ripe with outreach organizations, churches, and community bodies set up to aid the community. Because of the lack of unity however, these organizations duplicate resources in an attempt to gain market share when instead they can pool and efficiently distribute what they have together. This idea goes beyond our community organizations. We can change our public school systems by selecting well-vetted Board of Education members who care about the progress of our young people and will put into action what they preach. We can hold our Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners accountable if we know who they are and what values they represent.

The District of Columbia in particular is a hidden gem in the Black community not only regionally, but nationally as well. Carrying nearly 50 percent of the voting populace in the city (including a large majority or virtual sweep in Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8), Blacks have the political hammer in this region if they choose to take the time to learn how to wield it effectively.

With this general election, we can begin not by focusing on the presidency, but paying attention to the candidates who really impact our daily lives, including our delegates to the House of Representatives, At-Large Council member seats, Council member and State Board of Education seats for Wards 2, 4 (61 percent AA voters), 7 (90+ percent AA voters), and 8 (90+ percent AA voters), our At-Large Board of Education seats, and our Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Making competent decisions regarding these political seats will be key in setting the tone for the next mayoral campaign, beginning to create urgency within the day to day actions of decision makers in regards to addressing the concerns and negligence within the Black community in a meaningful way.

Three young and driven new political faces on the scene this election will be Ward 8 Council Member candidate and for Board of Education member Trayon White, At-Large candidate Robert White, and Ward 8 Board of Education candidate and current ANC 8C04 representative Markus Batchelor, all of whom have the look of the future faces of the political hierarchy in the nation’s District. By fully supporting homegrown community leaders such as these gentlemen, we not only have true representation but we also have individuals who must be accountable to the communities to which they govern not only because of occupation, but also because of loyalty through affiliation. We can be more active and attentive in our local politics in a far more engaging way when we are governed by members of our own communities.

I hope that these words do not fall on deaf ears and in November we send a resounding message to all of our brothers and sisters across the nation that the time for change was yesterday but the call to action is now. Let’s take our first true step towards liberation and a better tomorrow for the country as a whole.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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