Even with election wins, get organized and involved 

Don't Get Comfortable

Last year when I was running to be a member of the South Carolina legislature, I went to a couple barbershops to do some good old fashioned, hand-to-hand campaigning because one of my political advisors told me to. He said it was a good idea to "meet real people where they are" and what better place to meet "real people" than the barbershop. Sounded like a good idea to me.

Sidenote: it is NOT a good idea to cold campaign at barbershops. People are there for fresh cuts and spicy gossip, not to hear you talk about infrastructure while misquoting Gil Scott-Heron. So, unless you plan on paying for haircuts, just leave a campaign poster and keep it moving.

At one of the barbershops I visited, I had a super real conversation with a gentleman about how he felt Obama had let Black people down. But when we got down to the nitty gritty, his real beef was not specifically about what Obama hadn't done for Black people but rather what he had done for the LGBTQ community. He felt like, and I'm paraphrasing, "the gays got everything." They had laws changed for them and awareness shined on their issues that we didn't get. I told him that I respected his position but I didn't exactly agree with the sentiment. The LGBTQ community was able to make ardent strides during the Obama administration but it wasn't because Obama liked them more than he did the Black community. It happened because the LGBTQ community earned the progress they experienced. Fair and square.

They organized. They hosted candidate forums. They had a menu of items they wanted and donated funds to the candidates that promised to help them achieve those goals. Then they voted for those candidates. But they didn't stop there; their follow up game was crazy. They went to city council meetings, they lobbied at the State House, and in the offices of the officials they elected, holding them accountable for promises made. They did this for years, so that when the right person came into power, they would be able to reap the benefits.

They were not the only ones to follow that playbook. The Republicans saw a pissed off majority who believed that they were rapidly becoming the minority and used that to their advantage. Which is just all kinds of false, but nonetheless, that's how they felt and they acted on those emotions. Much like the LGBTQ community, Republicans organized, donated, and cultivated for years so that when the right candidate came into power, they would be able to capitalize. Hence the rise of "Make America Great Campaign" and the millions of mostly white Republicans doing everything in their power to reclaim this country.

Black people didn't do that when Obama won. We cried, we laughed, we danced, we grilled, we played Frankie Beverly, and did the electric slide. Then we went home and chilled, believing that by his mere presence alone, America was going to finally smile favorably towards the descendants of slaves who quite literally built this country. I told the gentleman in the barbershop that I understood his opinion but the truth is that's not how politics works. You can't just sit home, not get involved, and expect everything to just magically work out.

Ironically the election of Trump had an interesting, and I'm sure unintended, consequence of getting more Black people involved in the political process. As such, congrats are in order to those that became fed up with the state of things, ran for office, and won. Representative-elect Marvin Pendarvis will be taking over the vacant SC House 113 seat left by Seth Whipper. And seven cities elected their first ever Black person to the position of Mayor: Jonathan McCollar (Statesboro, Ga.), Brendan Barber (Georgetown, S.C.), Mary Parham Copelan (Milledgeville, Ga.), Wilmot Collins (Helena, MT), Booker Gainor (Cairo, Ga.), Melvin Carter (St. Paul, Minn.), and Vi Lyles (Charlotte, N.C.). And it's not just Mayors that are winning, Independent Nikuyah Walker will be joining Vice Mayor Dr. Wes Bellamy on Charlottesville's city council and Democrat Ashley Bennett became a freeholder in New Jersey's Atlantic County. Again, good stuff!

My fear, though, is this recent string of wins over the last week may lead to an Obama-like hangover all over again. I don't want us to think that our job is done when, in fact, it's time for us to turn it up a notch. Like the Republican and LGBTQ communities before us, we need to formally organize or join organizations, like the NAACP, that are already in existence. We need to create, as best we can, a platform of changes we'd like to see then hold our elected officials accountable for making it happen. And if these people don't do what we want, we need to be willing to financially support the campaigns of candidates that will champion our causes.

If Chance the Rapper can take time out of his day to visit a Chicago City Council Meeting to advocate against a measure to spend $95 Million on a new Police Academy (his speech didn't work, Chicago officials voted 48-1 in favor of the facility) and the aforementioned Obama can show up for jury duty, then we can most certainly take the time to become a bit more engaged in the process.

The political process is very much like life in the sense that you only get out of it what you put in. While it's cool to quote actress Issa Rae and say that you're "...rooting for everyone Black," that's not nearly enough. The next steps (after celebrating all these wins while doing the Wobble) is to leave the comfort of our barbershops and salons, with our minds focused on creating the changes we want to see in our communities. Wait, actually, get your hair done first, because despite what Gil told us back in 1970, this revolution will be televised.


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