By Autumn Nichols, Contributing Writer

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.  — A town hall meeting was held by The Bakersfield Chapter of Links Incorporated on Wednesday, October 14, at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom and Facebook live.  A panel of local activists and leaders from generations X, Y, and Z conversed during this webinar about changes they want to see in Kern County, while encouraging communities of color to get out and vote.

The topic of this town hall titled “GENERATION X,Y, and Z TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES THROUGH OUR VOICE OUR VOTE OUR POWER” geared its virtual discussion toward the importance of increasing the number of registered voters and empowering generations of color, and our youngest eligible generation to cast their ballots by November 3rd. 

Olivia Washington, President of Links Incorporated Bakersfield Chapter, opened and closed the non-partisan town hall meeting as Lauren Strong, moderator, led the online discussion. Panelists included, from GEN X- Sabrina Burris; GEN Y- Herbert (Trea) Neally III, Philemon Norris, and Nicholas (Nic) Shannon; and GEN Z- Ja’Nell Gore, and Ivana (Ivy) Randall.

Key topics included closing the generational wealth gap, health care, injustices, and getting black voices heard.  When asked his reason for exercising his right to vote,  Philemon Norris stated, “Historically our voices have been silent for far too long and now we owe it to the past generations and the current generations to continue to fight for bettering ourselves.”

Trea Neally believes that we have to elect officials that at least acknowledge the fact that we do have health needs.  “There are certain (elected) individuals out there who don’t believe that folks need health care that have preexisting conditions.  We have to get elected officials that will acknowledge that. We can use health care to sort of tackle the wealth gap and the wealth disparity.” 

There has been a lot of speculation in the black community that a single vote won’t make a difference. Ja’Nell Gore inspires otherwise, “Collective votes over the years definitely matter. She adds,  “Why a lot of young people don’t vote is a lack of education with voting.” 

Nic Shannon believes that if we use our voice, we can build relationships to establish open dialogue. “When it comes to social justice and communication, building relationships, it is really important. Have open dialogue and have your face in front of someone who has power and is in the community. Local leaders are listening to our community a lot more.” 

Sabrina Burris leaves us with 5 myths that black communities often misinterprets:

Myth #1: “My vote doesn’t matter.” 

Reality: A single VOTE can make a difference!

Myth #2: “Everyone has an equal opportunity to vote.”

Reality:  Voter suppression really happens, so with the opportunity, VOTE for those who can’t!

Myth # 3: “Once I’m registered to vote, I’m set for all future elections” 

Reality: Check your registration status ahead of time.

Myth #4: “Voter fraud is a big problem in the US”

Reality: American voters are more likely to get struck by lightning.

Myth #5: “Presidential elections are the only ones that really matters.”

Reality: State and local elections can have a more direct and immediate impact on Americans’ daily lives. 

Several resources are available to make sure your vote is counted. 

Check your status: Voterstatus.sos.ca.gov

Track your ballot: Wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov

October 5th- voting started.

October 19th- voter registration ends.

October 24th voter centers are open early. 

October 27th the last day to request a ballot by mail. 

November 3rd- GET bus giving free rides to go vote!

November 3rd- VOTE!

“When you don’t vote, you give others the power to make decisions for you.” -Sabrina Burris