176_SaschaneSM

Saschane Stephenson

On New Year’s Eve demonstrators in Cleveland, Boston, and New York marched amongst street revelers.  On one hand, I appreciated the fact that the protestors remained committed to keeping the message of “Black Lives Matter” before the nation.  On the other hand I wondered for a moment, “What if…, and what then?”

What if there was a hidden force that pre-qualified whether or not a person could vent their frustration, or anger, as a protestor?

What if in order to march in protest, be it in Ferguson, New York, or any part of the country, every person of voting age—who had no impediment to exercising that ability—would have to provide proof that they voted in their last (i.e., 2014) local Primary and General elections? What then?

Plainly, what if all protestors got a message of:  “No Vote—No Voice.”  “No Vote—No Protesting.”

That’s a pretty crazy prospect isn’t it?  Or is it?

There’s a lot of hype around Presidential elections; but the numbers show over and over again that people become downright lethargic when the time rolls around to spend a couple minutes or a few hours to scrutinize and vote for individuals who then “control” their lives for two to four years at a stretch.   Sherriff, Attorney General, circuit court judge,  states attorney, you name it—they all contribute to setting the tone and policy of local judicial systems, and they all get put into place by a vote or non-vote.

In 2014, the mid-term voter turnout numbers were abysmal at best; and it was low whether or not voters came from preppy or poor neighborhoods.

There’s a lot of gratitude for those who exercise their right to vote, and who show up at town hall meetings when they could very well be watching the latest episode of the Voice.

However, the sad thing is that thousands in the brown and Black communities sat out on voting in 2014; and therefore, what by default did they choose ‘not’ to happen in their communities?   How did that and all past inaction contribute to the “the system” folks are now so mad about?

Historian John Henrik Clarke once said, “There is more to progress than marching.  We’re doing ‘show-biz’ liberation.  It’s not liberation.”

In America, we march to express our feelings and to release pent up frustrations.  In this instance, protestors are marching against forceful community policing and against the tensions between police and Black/Brown communities.  But, the elephant in the room is, what next?

Is the marching that we’ve seen, or participated in, merely “show-biz liberation” like Clarke referenced?  Good for the television cameras; good for social media posts and twitter handles; good for a temporary patch on frayed nerves; but representative of only moving ‘one inch in a yard-long’ effort toward real change.

Gratefully, there’s nothing that pre-qualifies anyone to protest; and so everyone can join in the rallying cry for reform in our law enforcement and judicial systems.

Looking out into the vastness of our future, it truly feels like we are on the edge of something.  We are on the edge of choices.

The words of poet June Jordan are ones we’ve heard before, “We are the ones we have been waiting for!”

In the time ahead, the collective “concerned” community has got to do more than reactionary protesting.

By all means, protest.  Let your voices be heard.

Then come together, plan, and participate fully.  That’s how real and lasting change will set in.