OPINION
PIECES
/ My life matters. My vote does, too.
My life matters. My vote does, too.

One of the reasons I’m voting this year is because I see the growing momentum to end police brutality. And it hits home for me.

While in college, I was pulled over one night with my daughter in the backseat. I had broken no laws, ran no lights, and maintained the speed limit. My car was surrounded by multiple squad cars and cops on bikes–all with their guns drawn and aimed directly at us. 

My daughter, who was barely two years-old, sat quietly in her carseat. My windows were tinted and the cops were screaming to roll them all down. I rolled mine down calmly, keeping my hands where they could be seen, and informed them of her presence. I replied that because an officer had a gun pointed at her window, I couldn’t roll hers down until they lowered their weapons. I invited them to look in the car to confirm—they did, but kept their weapons in place. I requested that they at least lower their weapons away from the backseat first; I did not want my child to look out the window and see a gun pointed at her. It took a moment, and despite being incredibly hostile, finally they compromised. 

Once the officers had lowered their guns off the backseat, an officer asked me: “Where is your boyfriend and why are you driving his car?” 

I was confused. My mom had purchased the car from a dealership; it was a great deal and only had about 5,000 miles on it. The former owner was an elderly white lady. I explained to them that I was a student at Temple University and I owned the car. But I quickly realized that they associated my tinted, 1996 Buick Regal with something else. 

After questioning where I was headed, why I was going there, and who I was going to see (the answers to which I kept rather vague because it was my right), I was finally free to go. No ticket. No warning. No explanation of why I was pulled over and guns were drawn. It was simply that, as one officer said, my car looked like “a drug dealer’s car.” 

It was a very intense moment. Reflecting on it over the years, I see so clearly how that could have gone so wrong, so fast. We’ve seen too many versions of it play out over and over again. I shouldn’t have to live with this. My daughters shouldn’t have to live with this. The Black community shouldn’t have to live with this. The American people shouldn’t have to live like this. 

It’s partly because of experiences like my own—and that of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others—that I vote. 

I can’t help but keep thinking that if we want a more perfect union, we must ask ourselves: “A more perfect union for whom?” To make sure that union is more perfect for all of us, we the people must vote. 

The systems that make these injustices so commonplace must change. 

We must go deeper and look more critically—not just at the system itself, but every single person who plays a part in the machine running. Because no one person runs it all. We must make sure we place our vote of confidence in those whose vision and ideals are aligned with the future we desire. We must be willing to roll our sleeves up and build. 

I believe change starts from your local community and vibrates out and up. Thankfully, I’m seeing more and more systems be reimagined and redefined at the local level, and that’s a step in the right direction onward and upward.

But I recognize that it can be hard to feel like your voice and your vote matter. If it mattered so much, why are things still so messed up? In full transparency, my parents were civically engaged, and still are, and so for me voting was something that was never a matter of if but when. And still, it wasn’t until the 2008 presidential election that I internalized how much my vote truly mattered. 

I was excited to vote for Barack Obama because I could see the impact his campaign was already having on us. I saw it bring out something great in Americans–people who didn’t look the same and who didn’t come from the same backgrounds were standing together in a way I hadn’t witnessed before. It was electrifying. 

The night Obama won the presidency, my city of Philadelphia went crazy with joy. People ran out of their homes, filled the streets, and marched to City Hall. It was so mind-blowing to see that victory. I remember standing on our stoop with my daughter and thinking, “Yeah, my vote mattered.”

And my vote continued to matter in each of the local and state elections that followed. And that, my love, is the key. It’s not just about the presidential election; every seat counts and someone has to fill it.

I’m voting for Joe Biden in 2020 for the same reason I voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012: I want a candidate who can bring us closer to the United States of America I’d like to see. Given the state of our country, communities, and collective consciousness, I believe Joe Biden is the best candidate for the job at hand. 

I founded my company and the Sincerely Syreeta brand on three principals: empathize, empower, and evolve. They’re a key part of who I am and core to everything that I do as a mother, an entrepreneur, a radio show host, and an award-winning journalist. Those principles motivated me to take part in MoveOn’s Your Vote Is Power campaign to encourage my audience (my loves) to vote—to take 2020 and everything we’ve experienced this year alone, to the polls.

Today when I think about voting for political candidates, I think about Aniyia Williams, who founded the nonprofit organization, Black & Brown Founders. One day she shared an analogy on Twitter that really resonated with me and I want to share a version of it with you: We have to look at candidates like buses. Who’s going to bring you closer to your destination?

In keeping with that analogy, consider my vote to be my fare and my right to ride. 

Ride with me. 

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People like Syreeta are committed to ensuring that injustice is no longer the norm. We must elect officials who won’t stall and who won’t put the lives and livelihoods of millions in danger. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know how to vote by mail. And make sure you mobilize others to vote as well. Together, we’ll create a better tomorrow.

syreeta

Syreeta Martin