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OpEd: Black Women of Ohio, Take a ‘Sister Stroll to the Polls’

sister stroll to the polls cleveland

In Cleveland Black women voters met up and were transported by shuttle to early vote together as part of an initiative called "Sister Stroll to the Polls" on Saturday, October 29, 2016.

One year ago Cleveland was the epicenter of the police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as the group held their first national convening here in an effort to keep a spotlight on the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hand of the city's law enforcement officers.

This past March, Cleveland voters flexed their growing political power in a local election by turning out Black voters in large numbers and voted out Cuyahoga County prosecutor's Timothy J. McGinty.

And as the saying goes: as goes Ohio, so goes the rest of the country.

Ohio has long been titled a battleground or bellwether state and is a key component towards the pathway to 270 electoral votes. 2016 will be no different and Black women voters' turnout will play a pivotal role in who will win the state.

In the last two presidential elections, Black women have demonstrated their proven power to determine national elections. In 2012, Barack Obama won re-election by 4.9 million votes. Black women cast a total of 11.4 million ballots, providing the margin he needed to win.

With little over a week until Election Day, polls show that in southern states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia early vote numbers have already exceeded 2012 numbers. However, the Midwest numbers are down — in fact, Cleveland and Columbus numbers are much lower than early vote activity in 2012.

There is too much at stake for Black women to sit this election out. According to the September 2016 Essence and Black Women's Roundtable poll, Black women voters are overwhelming worried about affordable healthcare and living wage jobs, but increasingly more concerned about criminal justice reforms. Black women from Cleveland can certainly identify with these issues affecting their day-to-day lives.

What's more, our detractors are not only expecting us to stay home but also looking for every opportunity to suppress and repress the Black vote.

Over the next week, the Black women of Cleveland plan to prove them wrong.

Black women organize our block, take others to the polls, and have tremendous influence on those around us when we simply take the time to call and discuss the issues sister to sister.

Local efforts will organize Black women to activate their networks from their household and blocks to their churches, sororities, and community groups.

Black women on the ground in Cleveland have been active participants in 'Sister-to-Sister' phone banks to encourage voting, as well as a Sister Stroll to the Polls, in which shuttles have been transporting Black women to early vote together.

In Ohio, we know this election is extremely important and then it's not just about the top of the ticket, and that you can't exercise power you don't know you have.

Black women over-performing at the polls once again could easily change the landscape at the city and possibly state levels. It's why the opposition doesn't want us to vote. And it's why we must.

Angela Woodson is the Convener of the Greater Cleveland Voter Alliance Unity 16' Campaign and #BlackWomenVote Cleveland Director.