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West Dayton Stories: Living Into Our Full Humanity

It’s pretty clear voting is important, but is it enough? Activist and educator amaha selassie considers what else it takes to truly make positive change in our communities.

The first time I voted, it was for Barack Obama. I believed change was possible and all I needed to do was vote for the right president. Or so I thought.

After I gave my friends proverbial high fives saying, “We did it!”, I sat back down and waited for the change to come. And I waited… My naiveté in the moment was that I did not realize that elections are a ripple in time. They require constant cultivation and occupation of the space between the ripples if we are to actually get to real change. Change doesn’t come on the winds of one charismatic leader. It comes from the people whom they serve realizing their own personal and collective power to emerge change and to participate in the process. It is this knowledge that infuses us with hope. But often times, the lack of change can be disheartening and cause some to stop participating in the voting process.

Some of my friends feel voting is a way to keep the masses complacent, so they have stopped voting altogether. I have other friends who feel voting is the silver bullet to solve a lot of our problems. Me, I take a different approach. I aim to strike a balance in the dance between voting- especially local due to its more direct impact, and the continuous work of co-creating together with my community the space we want to inhabit. I feel this dance is necessary in order to build our community’s self-determination and agenda, and then elect officials who will uphold and pursue the agenda they were elected to make happen.

I feel that we are now in a generational moment. It’s a time of great tension, a creative tension to push us forward to our highest aspirations. Now is a moment to live out our ideals and occupy the space of the shared future we are co-envisioning. We can’t wait; we have to occupy that space now by acknowledging the dignity and worth of every human being. Together, let us live into our full humanity.

West Dayton Stories is produced by Jocelyn Robinson at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices and is supported by CityWide Development Corporation.

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Amaha Sellassie
Jocelyn Robinson is a Yellow Springs, OH-based educator, independent media producer, and radio preservationist.