Registering to vote is only half the battle; making your voice heard at the polls is a must.
A few of our favorite Hollywood faces are joining forces yet again to send a clear message about the importance of the Black community exercising our right to vote.
With Election Day now less than one week away, realizing the necessity of getting as many people to the polls as possible to make our voices heard has never been more crucial. Created by Meagan Good, Keisha Epps, Cedric The Entertainer, Eva Marcille, Omar Epps and Kendrick Sampson with the help of Brand Maverick Entertainment founder Steve Jones, the Artistic Alliance for Justice (AAJ) organization is unapologetically using their platform to take a stand. Mirroring their powerful "Some Day Is Today" PSA launched earlier this year as a call to action in response to the police brutality epidemic that continues to claim Black lives in America, AAJ is aiming to empower communities across the country to hit the polls on November 8 in the name of change, justice and action with a new PSA.
"As people of color, voter suppression is a living and breathing issue in our neighborhoods and communities," Jones says. "Which is why I was so pleased to hear about the recent lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party to eliminate tactics such as these that are designed to stop people of color from exercising a civil liberty promised to each of us under the law. With that in mind, the goal in creating this PSA was to both educate and inform people of color about the tactics we must overcome at the polls, but first and foremost, to make sure that we realize the importance of actually SHOWING UP at the polls to let our voices be heard." Check out the video in full below.
A common thread among all of those involved with the AAJ momvement is the desire to stress why voting rights are not to be taken for granted. "Voting is not just our right, but our sacred franchise," Eva Marcille tells ESSENCE. "I have never had to take literacy test at a voting booth or been turned away at a polling place, nor have I ever been told I couldn't vote because of the color of my skin. I’ve never experienced that because my right to vote is protected by the blood of our parents and grandparents. That's why I'm voting and that's why I want you to vote. Exercising our right to vote is what we owe." For Omar Epps, owning the right to vote is the key to truly realizing the power in our communities. "Voting is an essential right for every American citizen," he says. "And the notion of "power to the people" only comes to fruition by us letting our voices be heard in the ballot. This is a crucial time in our history, and this election will determine the direction and progression of our precious democratic union."
Not exercising your right to vote has dire consequences and shows a lack of understanding in the value of our voices -- a stark contrast to the message we want to send as a culture. "Not voting is an endorsement of the candidate that you didn’t choose," Russell Simmons says. "The state of our nation is in your hands. Show up to the polls this November 8th." As veteran comedic actor Cedric The Entertainer points out, showing up to the polls also sends a strong message to elected officials about what is expected of them. "I vote to show that I give a damn! Or care about who, what and how someone else can affect my life and those of my loved ones," he says. "To serve as an "elected" official is a privilege that must be earned by the people who put their confidence in you to speak on their behalf. Your vote let's them know you’re watching and expect results. We the People must be heard. Use your voice!"
And as Total songstress Keisha Epps points out, the many attempts to push the narrative that the African-American community can't affect change is just a deterrent to distract from how powerful our voices really are when we all work together towards the common goal of changing our communities for the better.
"My hope for our country is that we come together, as one voice, to make America a world of true equal rights for all," she says. "My continued hope is for a better future for our children, and that the perception of our voices not being heard no longer serves as a deterrent. The truth of our ancestors fight should ignite a desire and passion in each of us, that will not allow their struggle to be in vain. A world doesn't change over night, but we the people in this world are able to make the change, and prevail if we stand up and do something. Vote! Be the change that we so desperately need to see. It's our right."
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Dear White People starlet Logan Browning believes that the hopelessness many have felt throughout the course of this tumultous election season can best be remedied by showing up to the polls with a purpose to affect progressive change. "We live in the land of the free only as a direct result of the fight for progress," she says. "We as an African American community and as a nation that believes in equality must constantly strive to improve the condition of life in the United States by using our voice--our vote. I vote, and participated in this Voter PSA because progress is ongoing. This Presidential campaign has left the majority feeling hopeless; the opposite of everything our current President stands for. There is a candidate who is the antithesis of the American Dream, and the thing about progress is that if its beneficiaries are not constantly supporting it then the potential for regression arises."
Ultimately, the divine responsibility to continue the progress of those who fought tirelessly for our rights in hopes of building a better tomorrow for our children lies within us all. "My hope for this election is that every eligible citizen shows up to exercise the most important right we have," Browning adds. "And that as a result, our country continues to make strides towards being a more progressive, unified home where every dream is valid and justice prevails."