By Harry Colbert, Jr.
From now until Nov. 8 (and beyond), Black votes matter in Minnesota; and an effort to harness the power of the Black vote hopes to engage and educate voters on issues of local concern.
Black Votes Matter MN is an initiative conceived by North Minneapolis resident and business owner, Anika Robbins. The campaign, housed through her nonprofit Anika Foundation, seeks to boost voter turnout between now and the Nov. 8 general election; but also beyond. Robbins said while Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are capturing most of the attention, there are several other races that are equally as important.
“In truth, it’s not the president who directly affects your daily living; it’s the judges, the city councils … the county commissioners,” said Robbins. “In Minnesota there are 100 plus judges up for election and 200 legislative positions. When you talk about police accountability, who’s responsible for hiring police?”
Robbins said with greater political participation comes greater accountability.
“Right now (in Ward 5) on the Northside there are 30,000 people and in the last election just 1,700 people of color showed up to vote,” said Robbins. “We (African-Americans) have to show up and show up consistently.”
As an example, Robbins pointed to the African-American community’s displeasure with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in his decision not to charge Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg, the two Minneapolis police officers responsible for the death of Jamar Clark, an unarmed 24-year-old killed last November.
“Mike Freeman has been in office for nearly 20 years and he’s been in that position virtually unopposed,” said Robbins. “We have to hold these politicians accountable. Politicians work for us and we have to use our power of the vote to let them go if they’re not representing us properly.”
In total, Freeman has served 18 years at Hennepin County Attorney, being elected in 1990 and holding office until 1999 and again being elected in 2006. Though opposed, Freeman has won election to the post by a wide margin each time.
Black Votes Matter MN plans to ramp up its outreach efforts over the next few days leading up to the election with a particular focus on North Minneapolis and surrounding areas.Through Black Votes Matter MN Robbins hopes to encourage voters to research candidates, attend candidate forums andexplore voting absentee. She said group will continue to host civic engagement and leadership development programs to cultivate fresh voices and policies that are a true reflection of today’s Twin Cities’ diverse communities.
“This is the people’s government,” said Robbins. “We’re issuing a personal invitation to show up and participate.”