Forums seek to engage Black voters

By Marcus Harcus
Contributing Writer

The first “Potential Power of the Black Electorate” town hall forum was held October 13 at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. Hosted by the Association of Black Collegiates, panelists included State Representative Jeff Hayden, candidate for State Representative Rena Moran, Impact Minnesota Director Nick Muhammad, and Troy Parker. The forum had 60 people in attendance.

A second forum will be held Monday, October 25, noon-2 pm, at the MCTC library.

The purpose of the forums is to reflect on the history of the African American electorate and to discuss the critical importance of political engagement, the challenges of voter apathy, and opportunities for political empowerment through popular education, community organizing and action.

Far too many of our people do not vote. Too many of our people are disengaged from public policy discussions and legislative processes. Too many of our people take for granted the hellish freedom struggles of our ancestors — several centuries of struggles. Too many of our people take for granted all of our ancestors and allies who have been beaten, imprisoned, even lynched and murdered for trying to secure the fundamental American right to vote, among other rights of citizenship and basic human rights, and to have our voices heard and interests included in public policymaking.

People can hate and try to ignore government, but it’s not going away. More importantly, it is our government; it belongs to us, the citizens. Yes, politics tends to be a competition of interests on every issue imaginable; it’s an awful competition for power, but if we’re not at the table, then we’re on the table. Those who have no voice present when decisions are made about laws and how our tax dollars get spent have no influence, or no power.

Public policy has been the tool that has legally authorized our epic history of enslavement, segregation and civil rights gains. We are all impacted by public policies, whether we care or not, so we should and must care!

In light of persistent socio-economic racial disparities in academic achievement, employment, income and wealth, criminal justice, health, housing, political representation, etc., African Americans must be politically conscious, organized and consistently active to represent the best interests of our people, especially those who suffer the most in poverty, those facing the daunting barriers to opportunities for quality living.

This forum intentionally targets Black students, but everyone is welcome.

Panelists scheduled to participate in the October 25 forum include U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, Minneapolis School Board Member T. Williams, St. Paul City Councilmember Melvin Carter, III, Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, Former Minneapolis City Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee, Impact Minnesota Field Director Nick Muhammad and James Trice, principal of The Public Policy Project.

For more information about the Oct. 25 town hall forum, see the listing in the Metro Briefs.
Marcus Harcus is a student member of the Association of Black Collegiates and an organizer and moderator of the “Potential Power of the Black Electorate” town hall forums.