FOLLOW US: 

When I drive around "da hood" I see the parking lot kings and queens reigning supreme, malt liquor in hand hollering "nigga this" and "nigga that." I see us pushing carts up and down street, sleeping on bus stops, cars rolling by with the booming system on 20-inch rims with tinted windows being driven by grown ass men who are banging and still living at home with Mama. You know, those of us who don't read a newspaper unless we're looking for a job or a place to rent. The brothers and sisters who aren't tuning into to watch the debates. Who may know a brother is running for President but couldn't tell you who Sarah Palin is and if you mentioned to them the market crashed today-would repeat back to you "who'd you say ran into the corner market?" Call them what you want-ex-felons, gangbangers, dope dealers, drop-outs, welfare recipients, homeless-but I call them unlikely voters.

Regardless of the separation of church and state-we got the churches on lock. We know our good church folks are going to vote come November. We know that the elders in our community are going vote. Those of us at the tennis courts and on the golf course-we got that.

But are we registering folks to vote in front of the liquor store, at the swapmeet, and in front of the fried chicken shack? Don't laugh because you know that's real.

Are we reaching out to the sistas who even though they are selling their bodies to the highest bidder, are still a part of our community and should be given the opportunity to vote if they choose to do so?

When was the last time you asked your local gangbanger to put down the bullets and to pick up a ballot on November 4?

You see I'm not worried about Black America's middle class-I am however worried about whether or not we are truly reaching out to those in Black America who can't be reached via CNN, email, blog, or newspaper. Those folks whom we might be a bit apprehensive about approaching but nevertheless, if it's really about turning out the vote, we shouldn't be.

We can't overlook a critical part of our community because of our own issues with class or our own fears of going into certain neighborhoods. We've got to talk to each other in the way that only brothas and sistas can. For me, that means going into the projects and to the eastside of town. It means enlisting the help of the same rappers whose lyrics I might take issue with but who I recognize have more sway with these potential voters than our elected officials do-who are often seen as part of the problem...their problem.

It also means challenging Black America's middle class to reach back and do their part in making sure that all of us who want to register to vote are registered. Taking Get Out the Vote rallies and events out of our neighborhoods and into the hood-and for the record that's not Crenshaw-more like Compton Avenue.

Take a cup of coffee to the homeless man who sleeps outside in front of the church across the street from your house and ask him if he's registered to vote. Offer to let him use your address to register to make sure that he's able to vote come November 4. I mean-you're practically neighbors anyway. Right?

One of my all time favorite films is Friday starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. I mention Friday to say that in every neighborhood we have our Smokey's, Big Worm's, Deebo's, Crack Head Ezal's. Are we talking to them about November?

All of this is to say that I just want to make sure that we're talking to all of us about the importance of this upcoming Presidential election and doing whatever we can to make sure all of us are registered to vote and that we go and vote. For some of these brothas and sistas, it will be their first time ever picking up a ballot.

I don't expect Senators John McCain and Barack Obama to focus on the hood. I think they have already proven beyond a shadow of my doubt that ever since John Edwards exited stage left out of the Presidential race, the only class they are concerned with preserving is the middle class and working class...and in McCain's case the middle class, upper middle class, and upper class.

For Black America while there are many of us that fall into the categories of middle and working class, there are an equal amount of us that fall into the underclass. Who's looking out for them and by them I mean us?

At 30, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes,' she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.

 



 

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