OpEd: Why Vote?

Katia Saint Fleur

Katia Saint Fleur

by Katia Saint Fleur

SOUTH FLORIDA – Katia Saint Fleur, Political Strategist, is working with Florida For All, leading the Caribbean & Black Constituency Voter Outreach. They are leading an unprecedented voter outreach coalition to engage and motivate 1.5 million black voters in Florida.

Florida For All has built a very deliberate and detailed program to engage Caribbean voters because they could be the difference-makers in this election

As a first-generation Afro-Caribbean woman, there were many things I was told and taught from an early age by my parents to succeed in America.

Words I’m confident every Black child heard growing up, that I needed to be twice as good as anyone else just to stay afloat.  I needed to study twice as hard and work twice as hard just to get my foot in the door, and if I expected to make it further, I’d have to do even more.

I was told to dress a certain way and talk a certain way just so people who looked at me didn’t have an extra reason to think less of me.

I spent my entire life with these little things drilled into the back of my mind, and in light of everything that has happened in 2020, those words and teachings never seemed more relatable, never seemed more real.

I was taught to survive in a country where even if I were an outstanding citizen and the nicest person in the world, I could take one wrong step, be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it could all go to waste.

The scariest possible timeline had slowly become a reality in the back of every black person’s mind: that no matter how hard we’ve tried to be kinder, smarter, better, we’re still viewed as less of a person than our peers.

However, despite their persistent efforts to keep us down, there are certain liberties and truths that can never be taken away from us, namely the right to vote.

Black America plays a huge role in the upcoming 2020 election, with the Afro-Caribbean voter staring as the belle of the ball in this election cycle.

Florida, in particular, is notorious for its close elections, as seen during the debacle of Gore/Bush, the narrow margins in the Hillary/Trump election, and the last gubernatorial election which was won by less than 52,000 votes.

As in any swing state, campaigns look for any advantage that they can find, every voter they can talk to, and any group they can persuade, because in these states every vote does in fact count.

In a recent visit to South Florida, Vice President Joe Biden made a special trip to Little Haiti in Miami and was met with a number of community leaders and made it very clear that he believed that Caribbean and Haitian Americans can and will decide who the next president of the United States will be.

On the opposite side of the coin, President Trump’s campaign is focused on targeting young Caribbean males, unlike past republicans, knowing it would lead to a more secure victory in the 2020 election.

Haitians and Jamaicans make up the majority of 800,000 Afro-Caribbeans in Florida, with half of all persons of Haitian descent in the United States living in Florida(460,000).

Both political parties courting Afro-Caribbeans and organizations like Florida For All Education Fund have created ground-breaking voter empowerment and education programs directed specifically to engage Caribbean voters for this simple reason.

Caribbean Americans will decide the next President.

So, why vote?

To vote is to make your voice be heard, with Merriam Webster defining the word as simply, “to express an opinion.” While you may think to yourself, a single vote doesn’t matter, remember that no one knows what you want, better than yourself, and if you don’t vote, if you choose to not speak up, you won’t have an elected official to represent you, and the ones you do have will not cater to you, or your needs.

Remember that, voting not only represents your individuality and power as a citizen and member of this country, but it also highlights the power of your community, your city, your county, and your state.

Our community is only made stronger when we vote, and the more people that participate, the louder our voice is. Want a say on how money should be allocated across your neighborhoods? Vote.

Want better infrastructure and more support to allow yourselves and your families to have more opportunities for higher education and better-paying jobs? Vote.

Are you angry or disappointed with the way that Caribbean people are being treated in your own neighborhoods and abroad? Vote.

Are you worried or scared about the future of your city, town, state, or country? Vote.

In her memoir, Becoming, former First Lady, Michelle Obama said, “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others.”

Take the time to think about your wants, your needs, as well as your community’s. Our voices matter, your voice matters, and this coming Election day, take the initiative to not only make sure your voice is heard, but your family’s, your friends, and your neighbors are heard as well.

Engage and encourage them to take their opinions to the polls and make sure the Caribbean voice of Florida is loud and clear for all to hear!

 

 

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