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West Dayton Stories is a community-based story-telling project centered on the people and places of Dayton’s vibrant west side. WYSO brings together community producers to tell stories reflecting its proud history, current complexities, and future hopes.

West Dayton Stories: Thinking Beyond Voting

Leah Byrd
LB is a community producer for West Dayton Stories and a filmmaker based in Dayton.

As children, our educations prepare us to take on the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship, including voting in free and fair elections. But community producer LB – also known as Leah Byrd - has some pretty strong opinions about the real effectiveness of voting.

Voting doesn't excite me like it did when I was in grade school. The way that American history is painted in textbooks makes voting and the whole American government sound so nice and not at all like an evil racist machine. It's only my second time being able to vote for the president. And I don't know, to be honest, the sparkling image that was painted in my fifth-grade brain from social studies texts has washed away. Don't get me wrong. I think people should vote. I just think we exaggerate the power of voting. There are so many obstacles, intentionally put in place to limit the power and reach of voting.

From gerrymandering to felons losing the right to vote, and let's be real, felons losing the right to vote is just an indirect way to attack black and Brown folks through our racist criminal justice system and limiting voting centers in minority neighborhoods. Those in power seem to never run out of creative energy when it comes to how many ways can we prevent black people from getting the right to vote; I suppose they had over 400 years of practice with that one, so I guess it checks out. I always hear people saying how powerful our vote is, and that's why they try so hard to prevent us from voting, but no one asks why our system even allows representatives to openly limit black and Brown folks from voting. Why is that even allowed in the first place in our quote “fair” democracy? It is exciting to see a lot of work being done by grassroots organizations to help reverse some of the obstacles put in place to limit voters’ rights for black and Brown communities. I just feel like it is clear that our issues lie deeper than what can be voted out.

I think it's time to start focusing on other strategies beyond voting to achieve better living conditions, community care, and a better quality of life for those of us who are most vulnerable to the current system. But I guess we'll all just have to tune in and see if the United States will be renewed for another season at this point.

West Dayton Stories is produced by Jocelyn Robinson at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices and is supported by CityWide Development Corporation.