The Bridge Between: America belongs to those who vote

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On Nov. 8, 2016, I was among the first people in line at the voting booth to cast my vote. I didn’t let my frustration at the presidential campaign make me stay at home. 

And this year is no different. I have already requested an absentee ballot to make sure I make my voice heard this November.

As a Black Muslim woman I am aware that voting is a legacy; I am completely cognizant of the struggles and the challenges that many people before me faced and overcame to make this a possibility for someone like me. Meanwhile, many people in other countries cannot vote and some die every day fighting for this right.

The right to vote and participate in governance is one of the most cherished rights in America. There are decisions being made by our elected officials that change our society drastically and are reshaping the world we live in. Throughout my childhood and adult life, I have emphasized the importance of voice because I believe voices are a very strong and powerful weapon that is often underused. 

In the fight against oppression and injustice, the first step is having the freedom to speak out – the right of every American to raise their voice loud and clear. It is society – people – who so often sound and act as an alarm to call others to respond accordingly – for example, the killings of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor became a national call out to society. It wasn’t only nationwide, but rather a global response to call out the racial injustice in America.

Not too long ago we were all screaming at the top of our lungs, shaking every building, stepping on every piece of solid ground, waking up those who haven’t. Our voices echoed from downtown Portland to the street in Minneapolis, to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. 

No longer asking for change, no longer waiting for change, no longer willing to be bystanders.

We are still here demanding change, too angry to remain silent.

Protesting means voting and that’s exactly what I plan to do this November because I am aware that in order to affect change ultimately it is the vote that counts. 

I understand that individuals often choose not to vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count. But one vote does count in many ways.

American politics has an impact globally. Individuals who choose not to vote will have far-reaching consequences to people all over the world, many of whom do not have the right to vote themselves. In local and national elections, lawmakers are elected to make laws, policies, and appointments that will have effects for years to come.

If individuals use an excuse and do not vote, what kind of government would we have? Not making our voice heard at the ballot box will allow those already in power, who we deem corrupt, to continue their mess and would allow power to be vested on one side of the political spectrum. That is not democracy.

America belongs to those who show up. Will you show up this November?

Ekhlas Ahmed is a human rights activist and educator who lives in Windham. She is executive director of the nonprofit Chance to Advance, which raises awareness about Darfur and implements initiatives to make education more feasible for all. Follow her on Facebook and contact her at ekhlas.ahmed@yahoo.com.