#Next20: 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act is “a moment of reckoning.”

By: Rebecca Nicole Laming

Hear from advocates who are determined to make every vote count.

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When sharing her dreams for the future, Chloe Mason said, "I would love to dismantle the racism embedded in this nation, to grant children an equitable and anti-racist education. Without an accurate representation of history, there's no way to move forward and create change."

While these words pack power, the fact that Chloe is a 17-year-old high school senior makes her statement even more profound. Chloe is too young to have her vote count in the upcoming November election, but she doesn’t let age silence her ability to demand equity and representation. As Senior Teen President of the Greater Essex County (NJ) chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc, Chloe spends her free time leading civic engagement opportunities like reminding people the importance of getting out the vote.

Chloe joined fellow voter engagement advocates for the second episode of #Next20, featuring teen activist Dylan Wilkes, Senior Teen Legislative Chair, Greater Essex County, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., as well as established trailblazers LaTosha Brown, Co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and Kyle Lierman, CEO of When We All Vote. Up to Speed's Diana Alvear hosted the compelling conversation that explored changing the culture around voting and galvanizing underrepresented communities to increase participation in elections.

A moment of reckoning.

"The first thing I did right was the day I started to fight. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on. Hold on." LaTosha Brown didn't just say these words, she sang them with soul and paid tribute to her roots as a native of Selma, AL. "In August, it will be the 55th year of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Yet, we're still dealing with issues around voter suppression and making sure that people have free and fair access to the ballot."

As our speakers shared, we are missing voices in our elections. In fact, we are missing full communities who are systematically under-represented, under-resourced and face an uphill battle just to get their vote to count. Despite ongoing obstacles within our election systems, LaTosha described the current climate as a "moment of reckoning" sparked by a swelling chorus of global advocates. "We saw a multiracial, multi-generational level of people that were the largest protests that we've ever seen in this country. And I don't think it's just about the elections. I think we are in a moment to radically re-imagine an America that we all deserve."

Kyle echoed LaTosha's sentiment that amplified calls for change have created a surge of energy to address racial inequalities. However, he was quick to emphasize it's not enough to show up once at the ballots and expect life and liberty to transform. "You have to vote in order to make sure you're putting leaders in office who share your values and who can embody the issues that you're protesting for and fighting for, and speaking out for. But then you can't stop your engagement after the election. And you have to vote in every election, not just in presidential elections."

Stepping forward for the future.

Chloe and Dylan were clear that rocking the vote was more than an opportunity to be counted, but a responsibility and privilege to be part of the change and move the world forward for good.

"I hope to create a world where everybody matters, and we understand that everybody needs to be represented," Dylan shared as she explained the connection between voting and building an equitable future.

When discussing her motivations behind taking action despite being too young to vote, Chloe explained, "When you voice your concerns and you refuse to be a bystander, then you actually sparked change, and that's one of the best things you can do in this world."

What can you do?

"The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we must use it." U.S. Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis said these words, which capture his lifelong and fierce pursuit of civil rights. He passed away last week leaving a towering legacy and a reminder that we have more to accomplish when it comes to equality. We’re not done—far from it— but you can make a difference.

The freedom to vote is the cornerstone of democracy. Get ready by visiting www.vote.org and take the following actions:

  • Register to vote or verify your current registration.
  • Check your state's voter registration deadline.
  • Consider voting by mail - request an absentee ballot.
  • Prefer to vote in person? Find your polling place.
  • Complete your 2020 Census.
  • Remember, you have the right to vote. If anyone tries to stop you, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-687-8683.
  • Donate to organizations focused on voter engagement like Black Voters Matter and When We All Vote.
  • And, for V Teamers, you can also volunteer to increase participation in the upcoming election through our Volunteer Portal.

Need to catch up on #Next20?

Don't worry, we've got you covered with the latest episodes:

Episode 1: Criminal Justice Reform

Change starts with honest dialog and recognizing where and how we need to improve so that equality isn’t selective. Hosted on BUILD by Yahoo, HuffPost, Up To Speed and other Verizon channels, #Next20 will feature young visionaries and groundbreakers to explore the inspiration behind their ideas. This is #Next20—the voices of the future.

Listen on the go: Check out the Up to Speed podcast for the latest episode of #Next20, so you can listen and learn no matter where you are.

#Next20 brings together a diverse group of speakers to share their perspectives and experiences on key societal issues. The thoughts and beliefs expressed by the speakers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Verizon.

V Teamers, click here to join the conversation on VZWeb.


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