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Your Vote Matters




by Karima Amin

Every four years, our interest in the U.S. Presidential Election is revived. Many of us have mixed emotions about this event. Some relish the opportunity to have a vote that is a voice in local, national, and global issues while others ask, “Does my vote really matter?”

African American males were given the right to vote on February 3, 1870 by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. While this amendment aimed to give all Black men this freedom, several states in the South unfairly limited Black participation by enforcing deterrents such as literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, inconvenient polling places and other obstacles for almost 100 years. In some state and local municipalities, the racial discrimination of Jim Crow continued to impede Black participation in the electoral process with outright intimidation. Eventually, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, removing some local roadblocks to voter registration.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), this nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized civil rights organization, has always been associated with voting rights. Founded in 1909, the NAACP’s stated goal was to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively. It should be noted here that the 13th amendment mandates that there shall be no slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” Are prisoners enslaved? Are they exempt from 13th Amendment protections?

The NAACP was also actively engaged in the fight for women’s right to vote, which was finally granted in 1919. As laws governing the right to vote have changed over the years, the NAACP has been in the forefront of positive change. More Black people have registered to vote and more are actively exercising that right.




Frank Mesiah (photo- Buffalo News).

Mr. Frank Mesiah, President of the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP, will be our guest speaker this month. SPREE Magazine described him as a man “who has worked in the trenches for civil rights all his life.” This Buffalo native and Army veteran has been a factory worker, teacher, and police officer. He retired as Regional Administrator in the Division of Equal Opportunity Development of the New York State Department of Labor. He will speak about the value and importance of voting and will answer questions about voting as it relates to criminal convictions.

Be an educated voter. Come to the next monthly meeting of PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. on Monday, August 27 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo @ 7 – 9pm.

VOICE-Buffalo Public Meeting Coming September 8

While we may be pre-occupied with the upcoming presidential election in November, some attention must be given to the upcoming primary races and general election for Erie County District Attorney. Just ahead of the primaries, slated for September 13, VOICE-Buffalo’s Public Meeting, on September 8 at 7pm at Elim Christian Fellowship, 70 Chalmers Avenue in Buffalo will highlight its mission to reduce the jail population by 50% and reduce recidivism. Part of Voice-Buffalo’s mission is to substantially reduce the racially disparate factors that result in Black and Latino people going to jail at rates far beyond the actual racial composition of Western New York. Voice-Buffalo strives to create a diversion center that will screen people detained by Police into categories of those who should go to ECMC for psychiatric care and those who should be arrested and tried in court. In further diversion efforts, Restorative Justice Hubs will be utilized. These are community spaces wherein people have been trained and certified to use restorative practices in resolving community issues. VOICE also recommends improving the training of police officers in an effort to improve the quality of community-oriented policing. DA candidates will be specifically asked what they intend to do to support the diversion efforts presented here.

For more information, contact Karima: karimatells@yahoo.com, 716-834-8438.

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2).

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