Election Day is finally here, after a historic early voting period that has seen record numbers of voters turning up across the country to make their voices heard at the ballot box. But although we are many decades removed from the Jim Crow laws that formally barred Black voters from voting, ghosts of the past will be present in precincts across the country today. We can expect to see voter suppression visible once again, witnessed in the disproportionately long lines at majority-Black polling stations, revamped Voter ID laws, malfunctioning voting machines and tossed-out ballots.
But Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, has an urgent, final pitch to Black Americans: You know what’s at stake; you know the undeniable power of your voice, and you know your vote can bring this country closer to being the place it was long promised to be.
In her “closing statement” to Black Americans on behalf of the Black Lives Matter PAC, Cullors reminds viewers of the Black Lives Matter movement’s substantial gains this year.
“For the first time, a majority of people living inside this country, regardless of race or ethnicity, stood with us in solidarity to affirm Black Lives Matter,” she notes, additionally referencing the movement’s growing political agenda, evidenced at this year’s Black National Convention in the Breathe Act, “our modern-day civil rights bill.”
But it’s also been a year of immeasurable loss, where the limits of that power were certainly on display just as much as the victories.
“Our power couldn’t get the knee off George’s neck. We didn’t have enough power to make sure Breonna got a good night’s sleep. We didn’t have the power to keep Elijah’s dance party going,” says Cullors, referencing just a handful of Black people who lost their lives to police brutality in the last two years. “We owned the street, but we didn’t own the halls of power.”
But on Election Day, Black Americans have a chance to change that—using their ballot to extend the power they wielded on the streets to help reshape district attorney’s offices, state capitols, Congress, and yes, the White House.
This doesn’t mean it will be easy, Cullors acknowledges.
“When you step into the voting booth or fill out your absentee ballot, that’s the power we can add to the power we built in the streets,” Cullors says. “Promise me, you won’t give that power back.”
Watch Cullors’ entire message here: