There’s a large majority of people who are looking past the election, pondering what will happen on November 4. As the exhausting news cycle continues ramping up to Election Day, many of us are looking forward to turning off the noise, in an attempt to maintain some sort of normalcy due to a very difficult year. From the coronavirus, to repeated racial violence, to the insurmountable loss of people and practices we held dear, most of us are just trying to keep ourselves afloat.
However, in order for change to happen and for the systemic inequalities to be abolished or revoked, the onus belongs to us as community members to take active roles in learning how government can and should work for us.
While participating in the general election every four years and midterm elections every two years is one way to show participation in the Democratic process, there are other ways we can stay activated and engaged in our communities in order to spur the changes we wish to see.
Here are a few ways you can empower yourself to stay engaged after Election Day.
Research your local representatives
It’s OK if you’re not sure who represents you in your local community. Truth be told, everyone has to start somewhere. But if this election has taught us anything, it has definitely reinforced that the only pathway forward is to understand that all change starts locally and swells upward. Becoming active in the civic engagement process means knowing speaks for you, whether it be your mayor, sheriff, city council rep, alderman, ward member or school superintendent, as well as who represents you in congress and at your state house. Many of these positions require a majority vote in order to obtain office. Check your official city website and research whether or not your representatives are actually voting and creating policy in your best interest.
Attend/watch a community board meeting or city council meeting
Community board meetings and city council meetings are some of the quickest ways to obtain knowledge regarding what’s going on in your community. It’s also one of the best ways to engage face-to-face with your local representatives and voice your concerns. Important votes are conducted at these meetings surrounding the approval of local business licenses, noise mandates, and the naming of streets and zones. These meetings are also televised on your local access channels to help you stay abreast as to what’s going on in your city. If you can’t make your community meetings you can also phone or email your representatives to make your voice heard.
Volunteer in your local community
Donating your time is another way to keep your ear to the ground regarding what your community needs. This year especially has produced hard times, further escalating some of the wide access gaps that already existed, especially in Black communities. The coronavirus has also presented unique challenges that were previously not an issue due to the nature of how the virus is spread. But there’s still ways to help. Research to see if there are safe ways to drop off food, or to financially support charities in your community.
Create an information group among your family and friends
You have the ability to be the go-to person in your inner circles. Technology has advanced in so many ways to help disseminate much needed information. If you find yourself always coming across good and useful information, you can establish a group chat or social media group to share what you learn with your family and friends. Information is power and there are so many ways to help yourself, as well as those you love remain engaged in our civic processes.
Run for office or support candidates who represent your interests
This step is the personification “be the change you want to see.” If you feel that your local representatives are not working for you as they have promised, there’s always an opportunity to put yourself in the driver’s seat or to support candidates who align with your interests. This could also mean volunteering to work on their campaign or supporting them financially.