By Temi Akande, Digital Organizing Fellow
With one of the most consequential elections just days away, the future of Chicago is in the hands of Chicago’s youngest, and most unlikely voters.
I was reminded of my generation’s power this past week at Chicago Votes’ Party at the Polls. With over 400 high school seniors at a block-club style voter mobilization rally at the Maggie Daley early voting site, it was evident that we have the numbers and we have the passion.
We’ve seen it many times throughout the history of this city–when youth are mobilized and standing together on issues, we show out. We saw it during the 2020 uprisings after the murder of George Floyd. We saw it in 2021 when 13 year old Adam Toledo was killed by the police. Anger is an emotion that drives people out. But hope for a better future can also be a catalyst for change.
During the Party at the Polls’ student power rally, a student speaker from Simeon high school correctly informed his peers that the 18-24 year old vote only comprised 3% of total votes cast, with just 16% of voters in that age group voting. There are a list of factors contributing to this–insufficient civics education in schools, lack of access to trustworthy voting information, and a disillusionment with our systems of government to name a few.
But at the same time, young Black and brown people are disproportionately affected by the decisions made by our mayor. When our schools and neighborhoods aren’t invested in and mental health facilities are closed down, we are the ones suffering. This is why it is so important to not leave the fate of our city up to chance.
As a young Chicagoan myself, I admit that I don’t associate Chicago politics with feelings of positivity. We have witnessed firsthand how the rich, wealthy, and well connected are oftentimes put into positions of power and not held accountable for their actions. I didn’t grow up in Chicago, but in my past 8 years here I’ve lived in a few different neighborhoods and seen the discrepancies. I lived in Little Village for two years and firsthand witnessed gun violence and how it’s impacting the young people in that neighborhood. There is so much beauty in that neighborhood that is often overlooked because it is associated with violence. That is a common theme of Black and brown neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago.
We can’t change our city overnight, but we can take steps in a better direction if we simply take charge. If we change our mindset from “things are just happening to us” to “we are happening to this city” we’ll see that there’s more power within us than we think. Voting is on of the main tools we have to ensure our voices are heard.
The results of this mayoral run-off election will be largely determined by the 18-35 age bracket because when we show up at the polls we affect the numbers drastically. We are so much more powerful than we could even imagine, especially because we are expected to be civically unengaged.
Davion from Simeon Academy professed, “this generation will continue to be a revolutionary symbol in this country. We have significant power. We must utilize it so generations after us continue to progress society forward”
In the next four years I and many of my friends could have children of our own. What type of quality of life do we want the next generations to have? I am proud to be able to tell my children that I mobilized around getting young people civically engaged for multiple election cycles. Voting is essential, and I want to encourage all of my friends, colleagues, and anybody who cares even a LITTLE about the future of this city to vote.
If you are ineligible to vote, continue to spread information so that we can combat the misinformation that is so easily and commonly spread. Keep encouraging those around you to not only vote but to hold elected officials accountable when they are elected into office.