By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Now that the new year of 2014 is upon us, I think it is important to reflect on the progress our community has made and look toward the future.
It has now been 147 years since Eezkiel Gillespie fought for black suffrage and became the first African American to vote in the state of Wisconsin.
It has been 58 years since the civil rights movement began, leading to historic legislation, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
We have elected and re-elected the first African American President of the United States.
Despite the significant progress that has been made, there are still issues we must overcome – and voting consistently in every election is one.
Our community voted in historic numbers in 2012 playing a pivotal role in in the victories for President Obama’s and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. The presence of President Obama on the ballot led to a surge of enthusiasm in our community.
Mid-term elections tend to receive less attention from the media and less enthusiasm by the public in general.
The drop off in enthusiasm is magnified in our community.
Elections enable you to hold your elected officials accountable.
As I walk through the neighborhoods of our great city, I see people from all walks of life that are looking to express themselves.
People who hope to express their dreams and ambitions.
Of course, one of our most important forms of expression is to exercise our constitutional right to vote.
By exercising our right to vote, we are doing more than honoring the sacrifices of those who came before us.
These times are too important for us not to express ourselves and raise our collective voice through voting.
While an election cannot pay the electric bill or put on the table, it can put leaders in place that will stand up and fight for the people who work hard every day and still struggle to make ends meet.
We can elect leaders who understand the challenges the less fortunate among us face.
On New Year’s Eve 1863, African Americans throughout America gathered as the clock struck midnight to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation take effect, in which President Abraham Lincoln declared that all slaves be freed from that moment forward.
Today, many people still gather at “watch parties” to remember and honor this historic occasion. Through our participation in elections, we can continue this legacy of freedom and celebrate the dawning of a new day.
I encourage everyone to look toward 2014 with optimism in our hearts, for we have the ability to build a brighter future.
We have the opportunity to begin the New Year with optimism and the determination to have our voices heard.
Most of all, I hope the New Year bring many blessing to you, your families and our community. May we all have the faith and ability to be the change we wish to see.