More than any group in the United States, Black people have been assaulted by either state-sanctioned disenfranchisement or other concerted forces’ efforts to deny or discourage our vote. While Black Americans are not a monolith in our thinking, theories, and theology, it is clear that we hold a power that some in this world fear when we come together to fight for our place, our voice, or even our mere existence. There are some who seek to take away our vote or discourage our vote because they understand the power of our vote. Now is a time in our history to stand up and engage in this important democratic process that our ancestors fought, bled, and died to provide to us.

Experts have indicated that the candidate who wins the electoral votes in Pennsylvania has a 94% chance to win the presidential election. In a large sense, the voter turnout in Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia area will determine the outcome of the presidential election. If one was trying to deny the right to vote, and was afraid of Black voters, in particular, one may conclude that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

It is essential to use this defining moment in our nation’s history to show what great things happen in Philadelphia when we exercise our right at the ballot box.

“Now is a time in our history to stand up and engage in this important democratic process that our ancestors fought, bled, and died to provide to us.”

The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller

Many have said that we are in a fight for the soul of our nation. While people have different issues that matter to them and help determine which candidate they support, we are in a unique period of history where the essence of our humanity, that soul, is at stake. And it is felt most markedly within the Black community, where health, economic, education, justice, safety, and all other indicators of societal strength are in peril. We do not lose sight that our communities have been neglected by politicians from the beginning of the Union, but we stand at a moment of reckoning where we must ask ourselves whether we want to make every effort to steer our future or let this moment slip away.

And at this moment, our job in this fight is to vote. Do not let those who clearly desire your downfall or prefer your inequitable status to succeed due to our own complacency, apathy, frustration, or neglect. Do not live in the weakness of fatalism, but thrive in the hope of your own ability to impact your future and the future of our youth. Couple your desire for personal satisfaction with community interests to lift all of us to a better future. This requires a lifelong process of education, expertise, and engagement for each of us. We must be committed and not succumb to the sidelines with social media complainers and conspiracy theory pundits.

While you consider your sustained plan and role to improve our community, the first step is to make sure you have an actionable plan to vote. Your plan should include your when, your where, and your why.

When: Decide whether you are going to take measures now to obtain a mail-in or absentee ballot, or whether you will wait until Nov. 3 to vote in person.

Where: Vote by mail; vote by delivering your ballot to a drop box, county board of election office, or other officially designated site; or vote safely in person. Making a plan increases the likelihood that you actually will cast your ballot successfully. For example, do you know how to put your ballot in its proper envelope and seal it? Also, do you know what ward and division you live in, and where that polling site is located? Some polling sites have changed, so please check your polling location.

Why: This year is not a struggle solely between Democrats and Republicans. This year is not a struggle solely between progressive and conservative agendas. The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis reminded us that “the right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society. We must use it.” Let us be true to the legacy of Rep. Lewis and so many other civil rights and social rights leaders. Let us participate in a way that honors those who fought for our right to engage in a democratic system, and died for our right to live peaceably and equitably.

After we vote, we must continue to engage in the democratic system as our civil rights and social rights leaders have done for generations. We must educate ourselves, fight for positions of power, support each other, and stay persistent and consistent to hold leaders accountable for their promises and actions. But in the meantime, plan your voting strategy: gather reliable and correct information, show up, cast your vote, and let your voice be heard.

The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller is the senior pastor of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.