With the 2022 Midterm Elections mere weeks away, mobilizing voters – especially Black people and other voters of color – remains key to determining the direction of the country for the next two years and beyond. Realizing the importance of Black and brown voters in this election and beyond, Rep Jamaal Bowman (D–NY) has partnered with Community Change Action to lead a get out the vote campaign, “Democracy on the Line: National Voter Engagement Tour.” Rep Bowman and Community Change Action Chief of Programs Afua Atta-Mensah spoke exclusively with Blavity about their campaign.

Voting and accountability on Election Day and beyond

Rep Bowman, who spoke to Blavity on Friday prior to an appearance in Milwaukee, recounted his visits to several cities in important swing states this month, including Columbus and Atlanta, GA; Akron, OH; Detroit, MI; and Phoenix, AZ. In each of these locations, Bowman has appeared at rallies, community discussions and other events to get out the vote and to address voter concerns. As he explained to Blavity, “for so many years, people have believed that their vote ‘doesn’t count’ because they haven’t seen the daily impact in their lives when they vote for a particular person.”

Bowman believes the solution to this problem of voter apathy is twofold: convincing voters – especially voters of color – to go to the polls but also to stay engaged and “hold the people that they elect accountable through consistent engagement and relationship.” As Bowman notes, members of Congress “get calls from all kinds of lobbies and unions and groups with special interests.” Through engaging communities of color, Bowman hopes for “our office to also get calls from people of color, men of color on a consistent basis to hold me accountable for what I said I was going to do.”

A powerful Black male vote can turn a pivotal election

Bowman believes that this is a crucial election, given the extremist turn of the Republican Party and its plans to retake control of Congress. “They’re becoming the MAGA party,” Bowman warns, “and we should all be terrified about where things might go if Republicans take over Congress.” With such high states, Bowman holds that the Democratic Party has “to do a better job of targeting voters of color, and particularly men of color, specifically,” noting that “women of color by and large engage in the political process more than men do.”

The New York Congressman hopes that the “20 million Black men in this country” can be mobilized to vote and wants to use himself as a role model. “I want us to realize our political power as Black men and I want to introduce myself as a Black man who won a historic election and now I’m serving in Congress as the first person of color in US history to be in this seat.” Through his position in Congress and the activities of this tour, Bowman sees himself as “a living example of what’s possible when we come out and vote.” He also hopes that other members of his party will likewise engage voters throughout the county. Every elected Democrat who doesn’t have a challenging general election or no general election race at all needs to be traveling the country, talking to voters and knocking on doors,” he declares, because “what’s at stake now [is] our democracy.”

“Accountability starts at the top”

Speaking on the need to hold Donald Trump and the January 6 insurrectionists responsible for attempting to overthrow democracy, Rep Bowman contrasted Trump’s case to that of Kalief Browder, the New York teen who was detained on Rikers Island for three years without trial and subjected to beatings and torture during his detention; Browder later died by suicide.

“Contrast that to Donald Trump, Bowman argued, “who has been accused of sexual assault 15 times, who has been subpoenaed by the January 6 Commission, [and] who has been accused of business dealings that are not kosher.” If Trump does not faces consequence for these actions, Bowman warned,” we show the entire nation that accountability doesn’t matter.” Such an outcome would contribute to “a decrease in public safety, a rise in crime and violence” and other manifestations of a population that did not trust the system.

Black votes matter for everyone’s rights

Community Change Action Chief of Programs Afua Atta-Mensah, who attended events at the Georgia stop of the Democracy on the Line tour, communicated with Blavity the importance of this campaign. “We did this tour to make sure that our folks–Black and brown voters–are heard,” Atta-Mensah explained. “We know as people of color, our votes matter. That’s why the GOP is hard at work to restrict our voting rights.”

She noted the host of issues at stake if Republicans retake Congress, including Black seniors’ access to healthcare, child tax credits that keep minority children out of poverty, and abortion access for Black and brown women. “We have to enshrine our rights in legislation and vote for people who will protect our rights.” Atta-Mensah also highlighted the work of other organizations such as Black Male Initiative Fund, which also participated in the Georgia portion of the get out the vote drive and provides services for vulnerable communities such as homeless people and youth in the state. Such work, she explained, is “creating a space for Black men to be honest and vulnerable, and talk about the impact of local and national politics.”

Rep Bowman, before boarding a plane to Milwaukee, laid out the stakes for the campaign that he and people like Atta-Mensah have been waging.“This is about reminding people, this is your country, all of this belong to you. Your vote caries incredible weight and decides the direction this country is going.” Pointing to the importance of participation in our electoral system, he summed up: “imagine how healthy our democracy would be, how much healthier it would be, if everyone voted.”