In 1787, at the United States Constitutional Convention, an agreement was reached for Southern states to count three-fifths of the slave population for taxation and representation purposes. Prior to, slaves were not seen as people and therefore were not counted. The compromise gave Southern states an edge as the House of Representatives and the Electoral College was based on population. An increase in counted population meant more seats and political power.
Fast forward to 1865, the 13th Amendment gutted the three-fifths compromise by outlawing the enslavement of African Americans. The 14th Amendment effectively repealed the three-fifths compromise by addressing citizenship rights and equal protection under the law for African Americans. Later, in 1869, ratified in 1870, African American men would be given the right to vote with the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
African American men started being counted, but not without retaliation, and not without ridiculous schemes and tactics like poll tax and literacy tests.
Nevertheless…African American men persevered and were counted.
It would not be until 1920, with the ratifying of the 19th Amendment, that women would, too, be counted.
There is something about being counted that compels me to write to you today.
I feel compelled, not just because people died for the right to be counted; not just because they went through heck and high water to cast a vote, friend, to be counted; not even because they went through humiliation and pain to be counted; but because being counted matters for us.
Being counted for those who came before us had little to do with the change we now benefit from, but had everything to do with telling the world that they were here, they were more than some chattel or property, they were not inferior, they were not animals, but people—whole people. Their presence at the polls was a statement.
It was defiance in the face of a hateful giant.
It was a clap back to those who had the audacity to use them for representation seats yet treated them less than human.
It was resistance to the narrative that somehow, they were inferior.
It was a “pull up” moment at the voting booth regardless of the outcome.
It was a resounding NO to the years of being silenced.
That’s why I am asking you to carry the ball. It’s why I am asking you to vote. It’s why we must. It’s why regardless of what the outcome is, you and I should show up. We want outcomes, but what we want more is to carry the ball that was handed to us and be counted.
Let’s not fumble the ball. Let’s not drop the baton. Let’s continue to tell the world we are here.
I know the issues of life are pressing. I know inflation is rising and it is getting tougher to put food on the table. I know that your home needs tending. I know there are so many hours in the day to get things done. I know that there is so much to do, but friend I implore you to…. GO be counted.
Go be in that number of African Americans that will be counted.
This is not about anything or anyone but you. Voting is about you. The you that came from a host of other “YOUs” that rejected the narrative that they were not enough, not smart enough, and less than human. We reject any narrative that places our community at the bottom. We join hands with other communities that, too, will vote for their peace.
Remind the world that you are here. GO be counted.
Grandpa & Big Mama struggled to keep your lineage here. Please go be counted.
Men were silenced. Their hands bound. Their strength taken. Go be counted.
Moms with broken hearts had to release their children at the command of an overseer. Honey…Go be counted.
Take someone with you and let’s pay homage to the ones before us that laid their lives down to be counted.
Will my vote count? Will your vote count?
Yes, and we vote for the same reason our ancestors did; not knowing the future…to continue to tell the world we ARE here, and we ARE present with a loud voice. Let’s go be counted!
Sharwin Wiltz-Boney is an entrepreneur, business consultant/coach, speaker and author who currently serves as President and CEO of a financial infrastructure management company that has operated in the Houston area for more than a decade. Utilizing the experience, she has gained through business ventures and her very own life journey, Sharwin invites you into her Musings. Have a comment? Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.