Black votes matter and with the highest degree of certainty and without debate, Black people do too. During every election cycle, candidates are highly skilled at reaching out to Black communities for our votes. Them showing up right before Election Day is something we can absolutely count on—it never fails. We never fail either. Black women and Black men—all Black people show up.  We show up despite voter suppression and intimidation. We show up risking illness in the face of a pandemic and all its unknowns. We show up for them, hoping, praying even, that at some point these candidates will show up for us—making good on decades old commitments, pledges and promises. Too often, our biggest issues surrounding civil liberties, voting right, and economic equity are the last to be considered and the first on the chopping block. 

Yet, even after Black voters come through and demonstrate our unwavering reliability at the polls, more often than not elected officials lack the ability to be equally yoked and do not match our commitment. Our social, political, psychological, and physical lives do depend on our ability to show up for ourselves at the ballot box. We show up each election cycle like our lives depend on it because the truth is nobody has more to lose than us, and we really do need our elected leaders to be accountable to our collective interests. But, what are our collective interests?  It is of the utmost importance for Black people to curate, shape and push our own political agenda—a Black agenda. The Black Census Project allows us to take this first step in developing our agenda. 

The Black Census Project, led by my sister and friend, Alicia Garza, and powered by Black Futures Lab (where she is founder and principal) will become the largest survey of Black people in United States history if we can get to the 200,000 mark.  Meaning if 200,000 Black people say we deserve to be heard and counted on a survey developed for our interests and by our people, we make history!

Black people used to meet to discuss our political agenda every year before Emancipation. On January 16, 1865, General William Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, infamously known as “40 acres and a mule.” This policy prescription came directly from members of the Black community. General Sherman met with 20 Black leaders in Savannah, Georgia to discuss a plan for how newly freed Black citizens were going to move forward in a post-Civil War, post-chattel slavery society. In this discussion was a plea for complete freedom from white domination, a will to be properly educated and a grant of arable land. What we know is when President Lincoln was assassinated, so was our plan to acquire some sense of parity. 

The last time we gathered to develop a political agenda that resulted in the signing of pledges by elected officials and candidates was fifty years ago in Gary, Indiana at the National Black Political Convention. We can look to this convention as a guide to how we convene and set forth our agenda. Black people from all social classes, political parties and spiritual practices—including Amiri Baraka, Bobby Seale, Louis Farrakhan, Barbara Jordan and Jesse Jackson—came together with one effort in mind—to put a demand on our elected officials.

Many of the issues raised then persist today. They wanted more widespread community health centers, the elimination of capital punishment, an establishment of a robust health insurance system and a living wage. 

This is why the Black Census is tremendously important. Our goal is to reach at least 200,000 Black individuals across the nation to gauge what matters most to us as a people. In order for us to be powerful in politics, we must control the agenda. It is exhausting for Black communities to lag behind in education, housing, health care, jobs and entrepreneurship. Historically Black Colleges and Universities and schools in predominantly Black communities do not have adequate funding to support our students. Still, Black women are the most educated demographic of people in the country. Affordable housing remains a prevalent issue, as there have been an influx of homeless encampments in cities like Los Angeles and the San Francisco-Bay Area. The infant mortality rate of Black babies and women is higher than in non-Black people. These proclivities are due to structural racism and poor policies. We must demand more of our elected officials. It behooves us to lean on the wisdom and strength of our elders and ancestors in demanding the implementation of policies that fit our needs and desires. 

It is not only our duty to fight for our collective freedom, it is our duty to win. It would be reckless and irresponsible of us to not fight to secure a life of true liberty that our ancestors hoped for. We must consistently pursue a life of social and political wellness for ourselves and those who will come after us. We cannot afford to go backwards and by all indication, that is where we are headed if we do not activate 

Democracy is on the line and it is more  clear than ever that our hard fought constitutional rights and freedom hang in the balance. We see this with the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (1973); with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022); and the banning of accurate historical texts in several states throughout the US. Since 2021, voter suppression laws have been enacted in at least 21 states like Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida, all under the looming shadow of white supremacy that feels even more unbearable since the January 6, 2021 terrorist attack on Capitol Hill. They are working overtime to destroy and hinder our progression. We must advocate for ourselves and protect our own interests!

With midterm elections right around the corner, I urge all of you to participate in this democracy by casting your ballot on November 8, 2022. We hear it all the time but it remains true: If your vote did not matter, they would not fight tooth and nail to take it from  you. Voting is the threshold of democracy, so I need you to take it a step further. Show that you count by filling  out the Black Census at BlackCensus.org by November 30, 2022! Completing this survey is an act of resistance and a reclamation of our power. It’s OUR time now.