African American voter empowerment event highlights the importance of the vote

Students from across the district were invited to learn about the 2020 ballot.

By Cassandra Nava, News Editor

With the next election looming over the nation, the LACCD African American Outreach Initiative hosted an event urging students to vote not only for themselves, but for their communities as well.

The AAOI hosted their first student voter empowerment session over Zoom on Oct. 15 in order to prepare and educate students for the election. The event was co-hosted by Daniel Tabor, former mayor and city councilman of Inglewood, and Southwest College political science professor Lance Robert. The importance of voting was the issue at hand, with particular stress on the 12 Propositions in California.

“It doesn’t cost you to vote, it doesn't spend you any time,” said Tabor. “Vote early and vote often, because someone is making a decision that is going to affect your life.”

Robert introduced the down ballot measures, elaborating on what a “yes” or “no” vote means for each proposition. The civil rights propositions — 16, 17 and 18 — were touched on first, due to their relevance in the current political climate and call for racial justice. Then housing and taxes propositions were explained, followed by crime propositions and lastly, those that affect worker’s rights.

“Propositions are really a function of the 10th Amendment,” said Robert. “The 10th amendment in the Constitution says that you and I can make laws. I know my people in the Los Angeles Community College District want to make decisions that have social investment. All of these decisions can be made by you.”

Leadership students from Southwest shared their opinions on these ballot measures. Selena Lopez Murillo said that she is voting “no” on Proposition 25 because as a formerly incarcerated person, she knows the hardships that come with a cash only bail system. Student Michelle Booker advocated for Proposition 17 and also shared a personal anecdote. She explained why students should vote “yes” in order to allow formerly incarcerated people to vote.

“My brother went to jail for the first six years of my life,” Booker said. “He got out and changed completely. He became a truck driver who now owns one of the biggest corporations for eighteen-wheelers in Arkansas, and he is still not able to vote. Just because of that one mistake he made when he was 26. By saying that we should vote no on Prop 17, that is saying that one vote does not count.”

Southwest student Javiyan Jones discussed reparations and what Assemblywoman Shirley Weber accomplished with Assembly Bill No. 3121. On Sept. 30, California became the first state in the country to adopt a law that requires investigations on the effects of slavery today, in order to repay descendents for the racist wrongdoings of the past. Jones discussed how African Americans reap hardships economically, socially and politically due to past injustices.

“When you start looking at the difference between poor whites and poor Blacks, it’s an enormous wealth gap just among those groups alone,” said Weber in a recent LA Times article. “So, hopefully, they will look at what policies we put in place.”

Select students shared poetic pledges to vote in the presidential election, and all attendees were asked to use the chat room feature in Zoom to pledge that they will vote as well.

Nyree Berry, organizer and chair of AAOI, finished off the event by reminding students why they need to exercise this right.

“There are so many issues on the ballot that impact all of us,” said Berry. “So many issues in our community are at risk. So many issues that impact our educational system are at risk. As black and brown people, as oppressed women, as LGBT people, we must vote. We have to let them know our voice matters.”