Why vote? Why a referendum? Why not go the path of most organizations: issue the demands and protest? Like Mississippi’s Freedom Vote, the Voting Rights Referendum for Trayvon Martin is not a “mock” election intended simply to pressure the federal government to act. It is also an indictment on the widening disenfranchisement of black and brown, mostly working-class people, and a struggle to restore and expand democracy—not just in South Los Angeles, but across the nation. We hear pundits across the ideological spectrum warning of democracy’s current crisis, though for people of color it has always been in crisis. The foundational principles of any democracy—a free, equal, universal, adult suffrage based on a secret ballot; civil freedoms of speech, conscience, assembly, association, and the press; and freedom from arrest (and assassination) without trial—are being violated everyday.
The people’s referendum is a powerful tool (just ask Chileans). Email atBarbara@busridersunion.com; checkoutfacebook.com/FightfortheSouloftheCities; Twitter @FightSoulCities, using hashtags #PeoplesVote4Trayvon
Robin D. G. Kelley, who teaches at UCLA, is the author of the remarkable biography Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009) and most recently Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (2012).