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Midterms and Social Justice: A Conversation

November 7, 2022

In the run-up to the midterm elections, Adjunct Instructor Jamel Vanderburg reflects on the November 2 “Midterms and Social Justice: A Conversation…” panel discussion, and the importance of voting and being civically engaged.

Election Day is on November 8, and it isnot difficult to realize the importance of the midterm elections. Not only will we know whether Republicans will regain the House and/or Senate, the fate of 36 gubernatorial races, and a slew of state and local elections, but we the people will have a better idea of where America’s soul is and where we are heading for the future.

On November 2, New York Tech was the site of a panel discussion on “Midterms and Social Justice A Conversation...” The event was hosted by the Kappa Xi Lambda and Zeta Eta chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Pi Kappa Omega and Rho Theta Chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., featuring panelists Martin Braxton, paralegal and pro bono coordinator at Harris St. Laurent & Wechsler LLP; Larry Scott-Blackmon, chief executive officer of The Blackmon Organization; New York City County Clerk Milton A. Tingling; Jeri Powell, adjunct research scholar of international and public affairs at Columbia University and founder of Take Office; and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.


From left: Panelists Martin Braxton, Jeri Powell, Adrienne Adams, Milton A. Tingling, Larry Scott-Blackmon at the “Midterms and Social Justice: A Conversation…” event on November 2.

The panel talked about the multitude of issues plaguing our country today. With rising inflation, gas prices out of control, crime, immigration concerns, infrastructure, and communities in peril because of many of these concerns, there are moments where it may seem that America is at the brink and cannot come back. There are those who feel their vote does not matter, does not count, and will not make a difference. Some feel that being engaged or involved civically is a waste of time. I ask you to look at the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Look at the continued inequality in healthcare among communities of color. Look at the fact that it has become difficult for people to meet their basic needs. Most recently, President Joe Biden signed a bill providing student loan relief to millions of Americans. However, as of this writing, a federal court has overturned the mandate, leaving in limbo a piece of the financial future of many whose only goal was to better themselves academically. If you believe there is no longer a need to vote or be engaged, I invite you to stop reading right here.

Regardless of political ideologies and beliefs, we have a government and elected officials who do not put the interests of their constituents first. Many are interested in being re-elected and satisfying the needs of those who financially back candidates and their campaigns. This essay serves as a reminder that many of these issues need to be reassessed to be beneficial and effective in 2022. We also need to reassess how we choose our elected officials and get involved in the political process through civic engagement. We need to hold them accountable. Do your research on who represents you, what their platform is, and change the narrative to enlarge voter turnout and enhance your voice.


Adjunct Instructor Jamel Vanderburg

The biggest concern going into the midterm elections is the source behind each issue. America’s voice is not being heard, and there is a feeling that many are falling asleep at the wheel. The issues listed above are of great priority, but our voice and votes are on the ballot for this midterm election. The very facet of democracy is on the line. Our power to exercise our right to vote makes us the first line of policy makers in this country. If you do not feel that your vote is enough, get involved in a cause that is important to you. Unfortunately, voting and civic engagement have been determined by colors, not causes and commitment to make the country better.

For some students, this will be the first time they will vote in an election. For others, they simply don’t care about politics and government, not understanding how what’s happening in their community impacts them. While it is important to be up-to-date academically, it is just as important to be up-to-date with what is happening in your community and be civically engaged. This democracy is only effective if you vote. You cannot protest if you do not vote.

It is time to be creative catalysts and be at the forefront of policy changes that will better our local, state, and federal standings. If we do not realize that our country needs our vote and voice, we may have to live with the consequences of our inactions, including not holding our elected officials accountable. Nobody said the fight would be easy. In fact, it feels as though as one issue is solved, another pops up. That does not mean that we should take our feet off the gas. It is up to us to continue the work and not let our voices be silenced. That starts with our vote and our voices at the forefront of causes most important to us.