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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: Reflecting On A Lifetime Of Elections

Omope Carter Daboiku
courtesy of Omope Carter Daboiku
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As West Dayton Stories presents thoughts and opinions on the recent election and voting in years past, it seems there’s a generational divide emerging. Omope Carter-Daboiku has exercised her right to cast a ballot over quite a few voting cycles. Here’s her election reflection:

I’m a Boomer. My political consciousness was developed by the Civil Rights Movement and my non-segregated high school education. We learned about citizenship at age 21, and the Amendments extending the vote to formerly enslaved men and then to all women. Yet, generations of African Americans were denied the vote by policies like poll taxes, reciting the Preamble of the Constitution, and ridiculous obstacles like guessing how many jelly beans were in a large glass jar. Adults, college students and children marched in protest. Many were arrested; some were killed.

As the Viet Nam War was raging, Congress enacted “The Draft” forcing able-bodied young men into military service at age 18. The average age of Viet Nam troops was 19; so, a “not-yet citizen” could die in battle but couldn’t vote for the Commander in Chief. Disgusted by the hypocrisy, bombings and body bags, young people protested, successfully lowering the voting age to 18.

Protests brought forth Johnson’s Great Society. We were going to end poverty and systemic racism with better housing, better jobs with better pay, school food programs, Head Start, and financial aid for college access. That was 50 years ago.

Poverty and systemic racism still exist. Trickle-down economics strangles rural and urban families. Offshoring manufacturing jobs makes more profit globally and fewer jobs locally. Redrawing voting districts and reducing the number of polls take away the political power of ethnic communities. Funding war at the expense of education and public and planetary health finds us at a perplexing crossroads during a global pandemic. The battle flag of the Lost Cause is in the Capitol Building!

I ponder the plight of Generations X, Y and Z. Will they be fulfilled or feel like “dreams deferred”? Will they vote honoring past sacrifices, or will they feel that voting makes them complicit in the political turmoil?

In 50 years, will they be shouting from the mountain top; or, feeling like caged birds, not allowed to sing?

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