In 1963, my grandfather gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. He wasn’t painting the picture of a utopia, but one of a country where we could live without constant crisis. He wanted an end to racism and a beginning to civil rights in the United States.
Today, 58 years later, my grandfather’s dream is still not a reality. Racism is alive and well in our country. Here’s how I know: This year, 400 anti-voting bills have been snaking their way through states — and 30 have already been passed into law. Think about that: Lawmakers have passed 30 bills to stop people from voting. Thirty bills that silence the voices of Black and brown people, immigrants, and young voters. The worst of these bills make it illegal to give food and water to voters waiting in line and prevent people from having a say in the direction of our country.
That is not what democracy is all about. Today we are saying enough is enough. Young people, old people, Black and brown people, and people from all walks of life are coming out for the March On for Voting Rights. We have one important message to elected officials: It’s time to wake up.
Leading up to this day, people have been asking me why I march for voting rights. As a 13-year-old without a vote, without any way to pass laws, what’s my role in all of this? Here’s what I tell them: My generation can’t vote, but we can demand that our leaders do their jobs. We know that what people want is not just words on paper, but real action for an inclusive and just country. Marching and activism are the tools we have and we need to use them.
I march because this isn’t a game. Policies affect people’s lives. Whether we are talking about voting rights, homelessness, or education, it’s not about budgets and speeches and empty words. It’s about the kids who are scared to go to school because of gun violence. It’s about the Black women who are fighting hard every day in places like Georgia to make it easier for people to vote. These issues are serious and we are committed to change.
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SOURCE: Teen Vogue, Yolanda King