Wearing Our Ancestral Crowns on Voting Day

By: Gia Peppers
Oct 30, 2020
By: Gia Peppers
Oct 30, 2020

When we describe what living through 2020 was like to our future children, they will probably think we are describing an intricate movie plot line or hit TV show. We’ll have to explain that 2020 was in fact real, and that it was a year filled with twists and turns, unlike any other. In March, the world as we knew it changed, and in many ways, our day-to-day lives have been both monotonous and astounding, all at once.

At this present moment, we are living through what will go down in history as one of the most trying years this country has ever faced. So far, we’ve survived the deadliest viral disease of the 21st century and mourned the death of over 200,000 people, and even attended virtual-only funerals and memorials. We’ve used our voices and actions to hold this country accountable to its promises of equality for all by repeatedly declaring the value of our very lives. We’ve marched in the streets in major cities, despite the health risks of being in a crowd. We’ve made our coworkers uncomfortable by calling them out in meetings and in offline conversations about how their biases and racism have harmed us. We’ve turned our homes into offices, gyms, salons, and churches, while going months without seeing our loved ones. We’ve made masks a regular part of our day-to-day fashion. And all the while, we’ve done our best to maintain our respective belief systems, hope, love, and, our sanity.

So, before I go on, I just want to tell you that I am so proud of you, Sis. The fact that you are alive and thriving despite it all is a miracle in itself.

Though this year has been extremely trying, 2020 has also been a year of clarity on both a macro and micro level.

We know where we stand in this country, and as individuals. We’ve been forced to face traumas we were too busy to notice before. We’ve been challenged to speak up and show up. Stand up or shut up. To stay focused and stick it out, even when everything in our bodies wanted to shut down.

And whenever I’ve wanted to throw in the towel on trying to create a better future for the Black community in this country, I think about those who fought this fight before me. When we truly think about it, Black women have always survived and thrived in the most trying and dangerous of circumstances.

I know my great-grandmother imagined me (an on-air talent with several popular shows, awards, and accolades earned for using my voice) when she cleaned the houses of White people to be able to buy a home for her family in Washington D.C. I know my other great-grandmother—whose fierce determination led her to own successful businesses in Wake Forest, North Carolina on the Black side of the tracks—is with me when I pay invoices to the Black women I hire to help me run my own production company. I am the result of every generation’s sacrifice, prayers, and hope in what could be possible for Black women in this country. We are all the result of our ancestors’ determination, work, and willingness to show up.

To put it plainly: We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. But the key part of that phrase is that “we are our ancestors.”

We are the living part of a long, resilient legacy of Black women who never backed down, and never gave up. We probably lived in the mind of the slave, as they dreamed of all they could be, while enduring hard labor from sunup until sundown. During the Civil Rights movement, the sheer possibility of the dreams we live today kept Black women showing up to demonstrations when they were being jailed, hosed, and beaten in the Jim Crow South. It kept them showing up to the polls despite voter taxes, literacy requirements, and “good character” tests that were created with the sole purpose of keeping the Black community out of politics.

While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed the Jim Crow tactics, we know that voter suppression is still present 55 years later. We’ve seen misinformation rule the Internet, and we saw early voters in predominantly Black communities in Atlanta stand in line for close to 10 hours just to cast a vote. The reason for this is because our voices matter so much in this year’s election. And we will not be stopped, no matter the tactics.

As we head to the polls on November 3rd, if not sooner, it’s important to recognize the responsibility we carry to continue that legacy of showing up for our futures with the same fight, fervor, faith, and focus as generations of women before.

This moment cannot be taken lightly. We have access to more information and awareness than ever before, and that fact is one of the essential differences between how we were able to face voter suppression then, versus now. Since we have the information, keep these things in mind as you head to the polls:

• Solidify your voting plan with your tribe.

• Confirm your registration before you head to the polls.

• Know the status of your absentee ballot.

• Volunteer in some way at your polling place or by taking elders in your community to the location.

• Bring whatever it is you need to wait in line, if you are waiting in line.

• Vote down the ballot and know who it is you are voting for by doing your research on the local officials who affect your day-to-day experiences.

• Keep your local Voter Protection Hotline number on hand, just in case you do encounter anything that hinders you from casting your vote.

It is our time to make a return on the investment our ancestors fought for. What happens next will be the result of our dreams, our sacrifices, and our resilience, despite the suppression tactics, hatred, and noise this election has brought to the forefront. This moment is real, but it’s not anything we haven’t seen before. As future ancestors, we know our choices in the 2020 election will affect Black women for years to come.

Dr. Maya Angelou would often say, “Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.” And even though the deep concern I have for the outcome of this election has kept me up at night, the possibility of who will wear the crowns we are paying for in this moment gives me incredible hope. I hope in 55 years, my vote and decisions made in 2020 will result in crowns atop the heads of the first generation of Black girls who didn’t have to march to prove the value of their own lives.

On voting day, stand in line with your snacks, phone, and tribe, and it is my hope that you proudly wear the crown our ancestors wore. I hope you realize the magnitude of the moment and hopefully daydream about what life will be for the women of the future who will wear the crown you are paying for by simply showing up.

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