The recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police angers me. It angers me first and foremost because I am a Black man raising Black sons in America. I too have experienced multiple incidences of police encounters, but fortunately it did not result in the loss of my life. However, when I think back to the blatant disrespect that I experienced during “routine” traffic stops, the murder of George Floyd really shakes me to my core. I am angry because I am tired of seeing Black people in America continually be subject to the same behaviors by those in “positions of power.” It’s pathetic that in the year 2020 we are still asking for fair treatment in the communities, schools, justice system, and workplace. In 2020, we are still searching for fair representation in our political parties, in the media, in social systems, and more. I am a professionally trained lobbyist and community organizer that has worked in and around politics and policy for almost 17 years at the local, state and federal levels of government and one thing that I am constantly reminded…I am Black!
We are loved by America when we are entertaining or laboring to build wealth for people and institutions that do not value us. Our relationship with America has been unhealthy from the beginning. Blacks have weighed nationalism versus integration and both approaches have their pros and cons, but whatever approach we decide to take collectively or separately, we must know who our allies are. We must know those who have and will continue to stand with us despite the repercussions. We must exercise our power in the marketplace and in our political and legislative processes. Black spending and voting must be strategic.
If you too are angry like me regarding what recently happened to brother Floyd and countless others, redirect that anger to what we can control right now. Spend intelligently. Register as many people you can to vote, and vote for people who have a proven track record of helping to empower Black people. If there is no one on the ballot find someone in your community and get behind them as a “write-in” candidate. We can no longer fall for the okey doke. We must act intelligently, and we have to do our homework. No matter what a person’s race, party affiliation, celebrity, familiarity with Ebonics, or ability to quote hip hop verses, we can’t assume they are our ally. We need to track individuals’ behaviors and voting records.
We have a general election on November 3, 2020, and while most are focused on the Presidential race we must not lose sight of local elections, which have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives. These are the School Board, City Council, Mayoral and County Supervisorial races, amongst others. We have to be engaged and realize how the “dots” connect. For example, the tone of a police department is set by the Police Chief and this individual is hired/appointed by the Mayor and City Council. So, if you have a police force that continually abuses Black people that tone is set by the Police Chief and you have a Mayor and City Council that are allowing it. If you have judges that are allowing cops to go free after committing crimes, realize that judges are elected or appointed as well which means a group of justice-minded people can influence who that judge is. In most jurisdictions in California these are elected offices that can be won with a couple thousand votes.
In 2016, Black voter turnout was 59.6% in the Presidential election and lower than that in some local races. Imagine if we increased that to 75% – that would be hundreds of thousands more Black voters in California alone. We must take this moment of hurt, pain, disappointment, and anger to change our behavior. Rioting, looting, marching, pray-ins and press conferences are fine, but at the end of the day we must be more strategic with our spending and our votes. We need to organize and mobilize.
For more information on how to be more strategically engaged politically and economically where you live, please email Jovan Agee at Jovan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jovan Agee, founder of Savvy Consulting, is a veteran strategist and government affairs professional with experience building public-private partnerships that advance social and economic initiatives. He most recently served as Deputy Treasurer for the State of California Office of the Treasurer.