“The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote.”
–President Barack Obama during his 2012 Acceptance speech.
After a seemingly endless, venom-filled 2012 election cycle, the country has gone back to somewhat of a quiet normalcy. But for Latinos – who showed up in record numbers to make their voices heard at the polls – the work of solidifying and maintaining our place in American politics has only just begun.
While the excitement is still in the air, let’s not forget that participating in the decisions that affect our daily lives is key to increasing the collective power of our community… but, as President Obama so eloquently put it, it does NOT – must not – end at the polls.
Civic engagement is more than just voting. It means rolling up our sleeves, engaging in concrete ways, from volunteerism to advocacy, through both political and nonpolitical activities.
On the political side of things, the new “Latino momentum” brings an opportunity to keep our newly elected and reelected officials accountable, making sure that our voices continue to be heard and that our local governments are truly serving the interests of all of its citizens. We cannot stop pressing on for solutions to our community’s dismal economic and educational levels, which still leave much to be desired. The same can be said for immigration reform, particularly since notoriously anti-immigrant representatives in Iowa and Arizona have retained their posts. At the same time, even with our spectacular win of congressional seats and state legislatures across several states, we must continue to work to offer our future leaders a direct pipeline to leadership positions across the public sector.
Where to begin? Here’s a list of potential civic engagement activities you can start engaging on starting right now. I’d love to add your contributions to it, and to hear the stories on how you are engaging civically in your own communities.
- Regularly volunteering for community, environmental, civic or social services organizations i.e. helping the poor, elderly, or homeless; working at a soup kitchen or organizations involved with youth, children, or education
- Actively participating in civic groups or associations, either locally or nationally (not just donating money)
- Walking, running, or bicycling or helping raise money for charitable causes
- Attending community meetings and town halls
- Writing op-eds or contacting local or national media to express your opinions
- Taking part in peaceful protests, marches, or demonstrations
- Signing and helping promote e-mail and social media petitions and drives
- Boycotting or “buycotting” products or companies with production or policies with which you disagree
- Letting the White House know where you stand on the issues
- Getting informed about the issues at play during the mid-term elections in 2014, and getting ready on time to exercise your vote
Let’s maximize our moment in the national political spotlight by taking an ongoing, hands-on role in the issues that affect us every day, not just at election time. Remember, civic engagement is truly about community, not just politics.
Elianne Ramos is Principal/CEO of Speak Hispanic Marketing and Vice-Chair, Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). Under LATISM, she is also Chief Editor of the LATISM blog, and hostess to weekly Twitter chats reaching over 18.8 million impressions. Follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.