Organized Voices: VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!!!!

When I think about the beginnings of my civic duties, I think back to the first time I filled out a ballot which happened to be in a presidential election. Proudly, humbly and confidently without question, I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. This also was the year I privately came “out” to close family and friends as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

This was one of the most fearful years of my life because I would not only sit in and face my story of true self, but I would also start the beginning of a new chapter of what that particular story would unfold into. A chapter with many crucial themes, particularly around being a marginalized community member and how I use my voice in the civic engagement process. And it just so happens, that under that presidency, same-sex marriage became legal.

I understood then the power that my vote carried. Even more now as we prepare for the Nov. 3 election, I want my voice to be heard through that same power — my ballot, my vote, my voice, for me and my community.

I grew up in the Winter Park area in a poor, single-parent household. When folks hear and think about Winter Park, poor or low income doesn’t necessarily come to mind; however, it very much existed and still exists. Starting around the age of 11, I lived in a Habitat for Humanity home with my mom and my older sister, where I poured hours of sweat equity into building a home I spent more than a decade in. A home I hammered in maybe half of the nails into building my own room!

As a member of many marginalized groups, particularly as a member of the Black community, I know how important my civic engagement is, not just for me, but for everyone looking for a quality way of life. We want to live just simply being who we are authentically. When our democracy is being threatened this also threatens our personal being.

I intentionally entered into this work as an activist due to the Pulse tragedy in 2016, where I lost five friends and 44 other angels. I saw the need for accountability through engagement. I saw the need for standing alongside communities that have a similar story to mine. I also saw a need for truly digging deep and trying to figure out a way to end these types of injustices that have plagued marginalized communities within our country, particularly those within Black and/or LGBTQ+ spaces. I realized this could be done through my right to vote for public officials who work FOR me; not against me. Who acknowledge my existence as valuable and not deplorable. It was a moment for me to set up the world as best as possible for those that follow, really thinking about the future of my young nephew and niece.

Trump and his current administration of hate want to strip the LGBTQ+ community of human rights and make it legal to discriminate against who we are and whom we love.

The Trump administration has taken several steps to deny folks their rights: Trump issued a ban on those within the transgender community serving in the military. He opposes the Equality Act — approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. House — because he wants to enshrine into law the right for those with extreme bigoted beliefs to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in housing, jobs, health care and public accommodations.

As president, Trump also had the power to appoint two judges to the U.S. Supreme Court and now is once again plowing through a third appointment. All three with consistent records of not supporting the rights of those that come from marginalized communities. The expectation of this administration is for these judges to continue to chip away at rights we have already won, including same-sex marriages. Something I fully intend to one day have the pleasure of sitting in with my significant other of 11 years, as our blended family surrounds us.

The 2020 election is a call to action. Truly. As we have all learned in school, every action has a reaction, and are you willing to witness the continued negative consequences of actions we have cycled through since hate became the face of the nation in 2016?

We must vote for candidates who support our cause. We must secure a future of equity, decency, respect, love and human rights. Our vote truly is OUR voice.

However, we also can do more. Organize, mobilize and bring family and friends. Join the effort to phone bank, text and deliver literature bags with no-knock canvassing because, let’s be real, we’re all living and attempting to survive in the middle of a pandemic, so safe social distancing practices is a thing. We must support candidates from top to bottom on the ballot. Winning the presidency is vital, however it’s also deeply crucial that we engage and know about local and statewide folks in office.

Our collective power is how we maneuver through our voice. Voting is a lot like marching in Pride or marching for Black Lives. It raises the voices of concern and demands change. We are a catalyst to that change.

Join this crucial and cultural revolution of how we can ensure that the communities that have endured so much to give even more, have an equitable seat at the table. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!!!!

Chevalier Lovett serves as the Sr. Vice President & Managing Director of Organize Florida and was awarded 2020’s Most Influential by Winter Park Magazine.

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