My Relationship with Voting
My Relationship with Voting…I have been voting for 40 years. Today was the first time I have voted in San Francisco since I was 18 years old. It was not lost on me, that I am living in my grandparents’ house. The same house where I would be first exposed to voting by my grandparents. The house my grandfather bought in 1957 was $15,000 with a down payment of $500 (which a combination of their saving and others chipping in).
On Election Day, when I was a little girl, my grandparents would take me with them to vote. I can remember them getting dressed up, in their “Sunday Best” as we used to say and do. This phrase did not only represent “church” clothes, but a lifestyle of looking your best when you had someplace important to go or an event to attend. For Ernest and Louise Escort, going to vote was absolutely someplace important to go. They would vote early in the morning, taking pride in being the “first” ones to vote. We would walk right around the corner to the Polling Place. Of course, when I was 4 or 5, I didn’t understand the significance of what they were doing. Once I understood the significance, the price paid, regardless of how what I think about the process, the government or anything else about this country, I knew I had a responsibility to always exercise my right.
In a way, it was true, they were actually some of the first ones to vote. My grandfather was born in 1912. My grandmother, 1914. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965. My grandparents were 65 and 63, respectfully. I am 58. They waited their over half their lives to be able to exercise their “right” to vote. I have been voting my entire adult life. My grandfather voted in every election until he passed away in 2014. Obama being elected POTUS hit a little different when you can remember when Black people couldn’t vote.
As I pulled up to Oceanview Park, now Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreational Center, to drop off my ballot, I saw a Brotha standing outside of a car, talking to someone inside the car. I parked, as I walked toward the stairs, I heard the him say, “Our people fought, went to jail and died for us to be able to vote.” I smiled, held up my absentee ballot and waved it at them. As I walked down the stairs, I heard him say, “That’s what I’m talknbout”.
I think about the “right” to vote frequently, not just when there is an election. People LIT-TERRR-LEE died for us to have the “right” to vote. Why did people have to die for that which was afforded a right in the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution? Well, because, you know racism, anti-blackness, hate, a threat to white supremacy, all of the above.
The question is often posed, “How did we go from fighting, going to jail and dying for the right to vote to indifference about that right?” There is no one answer. I know for a fact my proximity to Black people who couldn’t vote requires me to vote. Every. Single. Time.
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