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[Column] Two Friends Let the Vote be Their Voice

(LOS ANGELES, Calif./Nov. 3,2020) — The fear was real as first-time voter Tazhanae Bonds and I approached the Pantages Theater in Hollywood on Nov. 3, 2020. It was the last day to vote, the last day to stand up for what we believed in as survivors. Despite our opposing political views, we were able to unite as women who survived victimization.

Thoughts raced through my mind – I wondered if my vote would make a difference, or if I was too late. I thought we could even be shot as we were leaving. I wondered if the election would end in the civil war.

I could not reveal this fear to my friend, but with the state of the world, and being subjected to the depravity of humankind throughout my life, my faith in democracy has been dwindling.

Bonds and I remained armed with our ballots. One Republican and one Democrat — one Black woman and one white woman. As I snapped photos of Tazhanae, the image of what we represented by supporting each other, was that of what our nation has failed to do.

“We support each other every day. We work together. We share a community,” Tazhanae said. “I see you as more than just an opposing side, but as a human being with a right to your own opinion. That is what people are forgetting. That yes, you may disagree, but everyone on the opposing side is still a person with lives and families, people they love. They just have a difference of opinion. Politics has dehumanized people.”

I was surprised that a woman who is a decade younger than I, had the same internal thoughts I did.

We waited in line, silently clutching our ballots, praying that this piece of paper could be powerful enough to stop any future bullets that may be heading our way. It was our turn to put our ballots in the box and this is where I felt a shift in my negative thought process.

I placed my ballot in the box first and the polling volunteers throughout the theater clapped for me and thanked me for voting.

I noticed a piece of paper on the table that had “First Time Voter” printed on it. I informed the volunteer just as Tazhanae stepped up to the table that she was a first-time voter.

Bells and cheering went off after the volunteer shouted, “We have a first-time voter!” Tazhanae looked at me shocked at the celebration the Pantages Theater volunteers put on.

We began to smile, laugh and for the first time in this election, we both felt a wave of relief.

“Being a first-time voter was so impactful because it’s very easy to feel like your opinion doesn’t really matter,” Tazhanae said. “With hundreds of millions of opinions being voiced daily, how do you know you are really heard? But when I went down to Pantages Theater and voted for the first time, it was the first time that I really knew my opinion mattered and I was being heard.”

BY HOLLIANN HARTMAN

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