By Olu Alake April 2010
‘As this is going to be such a tight election, as many as 100 marginal seats across the UK can be settled by the black vote - yes, that means your vote can determine who gets to sit in 10 Downing Street for the next four years,' Olu Alake president of 100 Black Men of London says.
Every single vote really matters
‘I vividly remember the moment I finally realised that regardless of the political system in place, every single vote really matters.
It was during the election for the 2000 US presidency, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were locked in the tightest presidential contest ever.
It all came down to the votes of a small district in Florida, a small town no larger than Barking in East London. So tight was the vote, that each and every vote cast was counted and recounted, while the eyes of the world watching on.
Eventually, Bush was elected to office by no more than 300 votes - less than the number of revellers you find in any London wine bar on a Friday evening.
Due to that narrow margin and the man known as Dubya was unleashed on the world for eight years, changing the course of recent world history.
Fom Iraq and Afghanistan to the global economic crises, the impact of his presidency will be felt for at least a generation.
It is chlling to think that there were a lot more than 300 people who would never have endorsed Bush as President in that district in Florida, who did not bother to vote that day.
Sacrificed thier lives for the right to self-determination
Many of us know about the history legends about the brave souls of pre-independence anti-colonial struggles who sacrificed their blood, bodies and lives for the right to self-determination.
We all know of the civil rights campaigners who have gone down in folklore so that we can acquire the right to vote; Rosa Parks; Martin Luther King; Nelson Mandela readily spring to mind.
These people sat down, stood up, marched, manacled their wrists and raised their fists for one major reason: voting matters !
One cannot be deemed to be a part of a democratic society if the fundamental responsibility of being such a citizen is not discharged.
Voting should never be seen as anything less than a sacred obligation to assert your sense of belonging and entitlement, which many so many have laid down their lives for us to benefit from. To do less is to besmirch these ancestral efforts.
An unexercised vote is a vote for the status quo
Some argue that they are consciously opting out of the ‘system'. The only way to opt out of the system is to leave the country. An unexercised vote is a vote for the status quo.
All politicians and parties are not the same; it is indeed quite frustrating that there are so many points of policy divergence amongst the main political parties, but there are also very fundamental points of departure as well.
The coming elections will be determine what happens to the money in your pocket, the education of your children, the healthcare for you and your families for the next generation.
Not happy that the State is abusing its position by illegally retaining your DNA ? Outraged about the long waiting lists and inefficiencies of your NHS? Infuriated at the standards of education that your children receive ? Then register to vote and go to the polling station on May the 6th and have your say.
Sizeable black vote in Barking and Dagenham
As this is going to be such a tight election, it has been identified that as many as 100 marginal seats across the UK can be settled by the Black vote - yes, that means your vote can determine who gets to sit in 10 Downing Street for the next four to five years.
The impact of your vote will also be felt at local level this year more than ever before. Nick Griffin, the head of the far Right BNP that has avowed to get rid of all people who are not ‘indigenously' English He will be standing for election as an MP in Barking and Dagenham.
This is an area where there is a sizeable black population, as well as a sizeable white working class population. If the good people of Barking do not want to compromise the safety, security, education and overall life-chances of their children, they need to get themselves to the polling booths on May 6th. For the residents of Barking and Dagenham and indeed for others who live in areas where there are parties that do not intend to act in your best interests, please know that not voting is a vote for them!
On May 6th, please vote. Vote to get the right people into office, vote to keep the wrong people out, vote for issues that affect you and your community's interests, vote for your children's future, vote for better opportunities for yourself. This is a right that has been afforded you at a very high price -please don't waste it.
About the author
Olu president of the educational charity 100 Black Men of London . He has a background in heritage and the arts and sits on the board of Tiata Fahodzi African Theatre Company.
He has held senior management positions in the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and Arts Council and is currently head of funding at the new Equality and Human Rights Commission.