Today is the day the state of Florida decides whether to double down on Trumpism by electing Trump-lite, Ron DeSantis, or to embrace a vision that has all of us in mind, by electing Andrew Gillum.
For 20 years Florida has been under right-wing control. Our neighborhoods, our schools, you, me, us, have been ignored and our problems have been exacerbated in favor of lining the pockets of the haves for too long.
Home to GEO Group, the world’s largest private prison company and major campaign donor to candidates across the state, Florida lawmakers are willing to spend $20,367 a year to house one person in prison while only investing $7,178 a year per student. In a decision that denied Florida residents, the fifth least insured state population in the country, billion of dollars from the federal government for healthcare, our current Governor refused to expand Medicaid and even more people remain without health insurance because Governor Scott also oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in history. His company was fined $1.7 billion for stealing from patients in order to build his wealth in the biggest settlement of its kind.
I came to this work in 2012 as a student at the University of Florida, enraged to action after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the non-arrest of George Zimmerman. Like people across the country, my sense of justice was shaken as the once seemingly covert racism deeply ingrained within the foundation of this nation became crystal clear. New organizations emerged in order to shake the country and with the vision of a better Florida guiding the way, the Dream Defenders came to be. The year 2012 felt like a turning point in this country; it felt like the moment we decided that we would win.
Six years later, we’ve witnessed countless acts of violence against our communities and time and time again we’ve seen them be justified. No one can deny the tides shifting in this country and across the globe. The far-right has moved into power riding a wave of incited fear and disillusionment. Yet still, 2018 again feels like a turning point. We’ve been preparing, building power, becoming more strategic, deepening our values and we are ready.
Across the country, Black Women are leading the fight against fascism. Black Women are running for office and leading campaigns. This year, 53 women ran for the Senate and 476 for the House of Representatives. We are standing in a moment of transformation; in a moment where what happens next will determine the futures of generations far beyond our own, women are leading the way.
In this moment it’s time for us to present an alternative vision beyond fear. A vision that says we deserve more than working hard and barely surviving. A vision that says we can have free healthcare, quality schools for all, and eradicate hunger and poverty. A vision that asserts we are free to be. This vision is a galvanizing force as we approach Tuesday’s election. This vision, outlined in the Dream Defenders’ Freedom Papers and created with and by our communities, is not “too radical” or “extremist” as some would suggest. We know what it is that we need in this moment and we’re prepared to do what’s necessary to get us all what has been long denied to us.
Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” This year, 2018 will be a year that answers. All the cards have been laid on the table and it’s now our turn to make the next move. In Georgia, in Massachusetts, in Illinois, in Florida and across the country the time is now.
On November 6th, Florida will decide whether to double down on Trumpism or to embrace a vision that has all of us in mind, by electing Andrew Gillum.
It’s up to all of us to vote like our lives depend on it, because they do.
Jonel Edwards is the co-director of Dream Defenders, a progressive civil rights organization, which has stood firmly behind Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign this election.