One of the proudest days of my life was the day that my mother and I became American citizens. My mother, a single parent with school-aged children, worked two jobs and saved a considerable amount of money to pay for our naturalization and citizenship fees. Late at night, she watched with pride as I made sure that our family knew the Oath of Allegiance and practiced our civics lessons. America was already our home and we were honored to become citizens.
I carry the memories of those early years with me. To this day, I am deeply invested in how our government works and who represents me, my community and our interests in the halls of power. However, my most important duty is making sure that I am faithfully executing my duty as a citizen – using my power to vote.
Perhaps it is because I watched my mother saving pennies that added up to dollars; perhaps it is because history has shown the significant economic and political impact of racial bias on Black Americans; or perhaps it is because of the false, but persistent, rumor that our President is not an American-born citizen and, therefore not eligible to hold the highest office in the land. Or, maybe it is because of all three that I take my role as a citizen very serious and I encourage you to do the same.
This is why I vote.
This is also why, as the executive director of a non-partisan and non-profit organization, I work to make sure that voter ID laws, targeted precinct closings and other acts meant to exclude people of color, students, immigrants and seniors – ultimately fail. While combatting unjust laws and policies, the New Georgia Project also seeks those that are not represented and offers a path to become involved in our electoral process on the issues that matter to them.
Georgia is our home and we deserve the best. We strive for a Georgia where any attempt to prevent eligible citizens from participating in the democratic process is met with swift opposition. We seek a Georgia where, even in the absence of high-stakes rhetoric, voters will understand their influence and use it to do what citizens of a democracy do…we will vote.
From my early days of American civics with my mother and brothers, I am well-versed in the rights granted to me as a U.S. citizen and exercising them is an awesome feeling. I encourage you to join me. If you aren’t registered to vote, do so today. If you aren’t voting in every election that you’re eligible and able to, make a commitment to do so this year. Advance voting has already begun in Georgia and it’s time to take action.
Nse Ufot is the executive director of the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan and non-profit civic engagement organization. www.newgeorgiaproject.org