It is time to vote and African American women make a difference. This is a call to all women 18 and older from all walks of life and all worldviews to step forth to get out the vote.

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Now is the time to mobilize neighbors, friends, colleagues, church members, women on the buses and in the grocery stores to get to the polls. In recognition of all those who fought so hard for the right to vote, it is our duty to honor their struggles and not only cast a vote, but get hundreds of others to do the same. We must defeat the negative attitudes of those who say their vote will not make a difference. To vote is to undergird this great democracy in which we live in this state, and in the United States of America.

There is no such thing as abstaining. Those who stay home and fail to cast a ballot, by default give the vote to the winning candidates, whoever they may be.

Maryland is the home of Harriet Tubman, who fought for freedom. It is the state where Frederick Douglass challenged the chains of slavery. It is the state that offers us four great Black institutions of higher education: Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and Morgan State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It is the state that ranks among the top nationally in the public school system.

To live in this great state with a dynamic culturally laden city, thriving towns and hamlets, beautiful farmlands, the great Bay, majestic mountains, and an ever growing diverse multicultural population is a privilege. The casting of a ballot is a small gesture that reaps big, big benefits to enhance and protect this wonderful privilege that we enjoy.

Black women made the difference in 2008 and 2012 and must do so now. So, why vote? We vote for children, for better schools, for access to housing, for better roads and bridges, for manageable taxes and policies, for protection from violence and wars, for healthy living in general. We vote because it is what many fought for and is now ours to protect and honor. It is the opportunity to select the best leaders at the local, state, and national level.

Recently Black women from 60 different clubs and organizations in the Baltimore area gathered to work across organization lines to register voters. This novel approach merited numerous new registrants. Now the work must be focused on getting all eligible voters to the polls.

Each woman must reach one. Make the lines at the polls spill out the doors. This is the call for action. The vote is crucial and the time is now.

Let us not suppress the vote through inaction. Vote is the key word. Women please step forth. NCBW Mission: To advocate on behalf of Black women and girls to promote leadership development and gender equity in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment.