by Michelle Gilbert, Director of Shelter Advocacy, Safe Harbor
“The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”- John Lewis
I vividly remember my mother putting my voter registration card in the Bible. It was the safe place for most of our important documents. During the 2008 elections, I stood in line with a 77 year old woman. She was dressed in what most people in the South refer to as her “Sunday” best. The line was long and my son was talking nonstop, so I offered to hold her spot. She squeezed my hand and said, “It’s ok, baby. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. There is nowhere else I’d rather be standing.”
Her words took me back to all the conversations my parents and grandparents had with me as a child. I knew it wasn’t just about an African American being on the ballot, but about the sacrifices that had been made to gain access to exercise the right to vote. It was for the future benefit of my children and my community. It was an opportunity to give voice to the issues that are important and show that everyone has a role in creating solutions even if we don’t relate to the problems.
As a seasoned domestic violence advocate, what I know for sure is that Empowerment, Voice and Choice are essential to creating change. Voting embodies all of these principles. SC has historically ranked in the top 10 for women killed by men. Black women are three times more likely to die as a result of IPV than white women. One in 11 teens report experiencing physical dating violence in a year. There are currently more animal shelters in SC than Domestic Violence shelters.
Funding for DV programs is often the difference between life and death options. You don’t have to look far to see the gaps in the system or the disparities among victims of domestic violence. Finding solutions is daunting and change won’t happen overnight, but showing up on November 3rd is a step in the right direction. I’ve witnessed the strength of survivors, and I consider it a privilege to stand with you on Election Day and every day.
Learn more about options for voting safely in the 2020 elections here.