How To Actually Win The Black Vote? ESSENCE ‘Black Futures Now’ Honorees Remind Us That Pandering Won’t Work

This Black History Month, three of our inaugural Black Futures Now honorees sat down with ESSENCE for a panel to discuss voter issues amid another presidential election year.

Maisie Brown has been organizing efforts to deliver drinking water in response to the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, Miss. and was named College Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine. Alphonso David is a nationally recognized LGBTQ civil rights lawyer and president and CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum. And Alicia Garza is the co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Black Lives Matter Global Network and founder of the Black Futures Lab.

What brings our changemakers hope about the future, and specifically the Black agenda heading into this year’s 2024 presidential election?

As someone who works with young people every day, Brown says she and her peers “are not okay with 99% of what’s going on in the world.” But they’re not content to remain static and lament in this state—”my generation has a lot of energy. We have a lot of really innovative ideas. We are global thinkers, and we’re really energized to do what we have to do to get the results we want.”

Garza echoed this sentiment, stating “one of the things that I think is so important about the way that we have shaped this globe is our imagination, and the innovation that we bring to every major social issue. There’s no issue happening on this planet that has not been impacted and influenced by Black folks and not only our creativity, but our courage to imagine something new and not just imagine it, but to fight for it and to be at the front of the line fighting not just for us, but for everybody.”

Meet all of the honorees on ESSENCE’s inaugural Black Futures Now list!

David shared how he is “really hopeful for a lot of reasons: first, the resilience of our community, despite the ongoing attacks against us. Second, I think there is a growth in Black owned businesses, which is really tangible proof of our progress. Another is Black voters that continue to serve as a major bellwether in key electoral races across the country. In this time of challenge, there’s an increased willingness of leaders across organizations to really collaborate and advance equity.”

When it comes to picking the right candidate and what we can do besides showing up at the polls on Election Day, our panelists had concrete directives for us to act out on the ground.

Brown wants you to “go to your legislator websites, see who your legislator is, and look at the legislation that they’re sponsoring, that they’re writing, that they’re supporting, and hold them to the stake for it.”

For David, it all boils down to “economic opportunity and economic justice.” “We need to think about the values that we’re seeking to be reflected in our elected officials and make sure that we vote for people who are reflective of our values, and we hold them accountable when they don’t deliver.” By staying “civically engaged outside of elections,” participating in town halls and candidate forums, you can “hold them accountable.”

“Don’t sit out. Politics is not a snack machine,” Garza concluded emphatically. “You got to keep your foot on their necks. And if you don’t like what’s going on…I don’t like it either. But you can also be a part of governance by making the rules and changing the rules. You can either run for office, or bring the policies that you want and move those things through committees all the way up to your governor or your mayor, and say ‘you gotta sign this bill. Because this is what’s going to feed my family.’”

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