I voted I voted!! This was my first year to be part of the selection process of the leadership of my country. I left Ghana when I was 15 and never got to participate in that process. Last year I finally became eligible to vote in the country I’ve been calling home for almost 15 years. It was very exciting to be part of the process especially given the tension surrounding this particular election and the relevance of the leader selected for the next four years.
It took me about 3 tries to get registered…I finally realized I could register online and in a few clicks was officially registered. I waited nervously to receive a sample ballot in the mail, in the meantime I kept checking the registrar’s record online to see if my registration had gone through. Did that a few times before my name popped up and I got my poll location. Yay! Finally I was in! I absolutely enjoyed receiving the sample ballot and going through them and picking my choice. I had studied up on the propositions as well and was fully prepared to add my selection….Oooh this is what democracy feels like.
Election Day was like Christmas for me! It really felt good to perform my civic duty; I guess a big part of it was a sense of belonging that I finally felt. And it felt amazing! The actual process of voting was rather uneventful…the most exciting part was the overbearing poll worker that was helping the other poll workers get through what they had already done. And the poll pen that I used to pick my choices was capped and my slippery hands could not pry the cap open…I guess I was a tad nervous. So I called the overprotective poll worker over and in a few attempts, I was ready to go. The process reminded me a bit of a scantron test…the worst is to get to the end and realize that you had missed one or a couple of boxes…who came up with that idea anyway? There is so much room for error on a scantron sheet! Anyways, it didn’t take long and it was done. In fact I probably spent more time taking pictures than the whole process of voting! And I got to go into work a bit late so that I could exercise my right to vote!
November 6th proved to be a day of smiles...until about 7pm when the tallies started coming in. I was at the gym where I had just finished teaching a Zumba® Fitness class. I watched nervously with other gym enthusiasts who obviously didn’t want election results to interrupt their workouts. At some point when Present Obama was projected to win, none of us believed it…we figured that they were just getting our hopes up...after all California had just closed the polls. The nervousness was quickly replaced by excitement when I called a friend who had more faith in our media than I…Yay! My preferred candidate had made it! And I felt proud to be a part of picking him. This is what democracy feels like!
As quickly as they came, the elections were over and the influx of stories replaced the excitement of the reelection of President Barack Obama. One of the stories was from a friend whose grandma, at age 79, had transported some voters to the polls to ensure that their voice could be heard and this got me thinking!
In all my excitement of being a part of the process, I had forgotten that as recently as the 1960’s many people in the United States were not allowed to be part of the election process. In many parts of Africa, people were still under colonial rule…which meant they had no rights in their own land. The significance of my participation in the election grew. It wasn’t just about getting my voice heard…after all ONE singular vote never determined the outcome of an election. It was also about being able to exercise my rights in this country.
When I was in college, I learned about the freedom fighters, the civil rights workers and how they tolled to ensure that people of color were recognized first as full human beings and then given the same rights as any and everyone else. I remember the outrage I felt…it was the same outrage I felt when I learned about the history of Ghana and how several European countries had come in and exchanged alcohol, tobacco and guns first gold and ivory and later for people. My parents were born during the time of colonization and during a time when blacks in the United States did not have many rights….it really was not that long ago.
My pride in voting in 2012 has swelled since my actual participation. This is my way of thanking my fallen ancestors and letting them know that their fight was not in vain. This is not just for my African ancestors, but also my African American ancestors.
It was not coincidental that during the decade when blacks in America were earning rights, blacks in Africa were witnessing a glimmer of hope. We have certainly come a long way and though there is much work to be done, it is wonderful to see the manifestation of all the blood, tears and sweat that went into our freedom.
This Veteran's Day, I'd like to thank all those who have been part of the fight to ensure that we continue in our quest for peace and freedom.