When people used to ask me, “Why do you even vote?” I usually would respond with “because it’s our right and it’s important” without any substantial evidence as to why I vote in the first place. When I look at myself, I view myself as a Bronx native, Filipina, a US citizen, lucky, and blessed. I was handed a deck of cards that I know others probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to even have within my community. Yet, for several years, I still struggled with the response to why I choose to vote.
Growing up in the Bronx was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. I have always been proud to say I was born and raised in the Bronx, yet throughout my life, struggled with the negative connotations that have been ascribed toward my community. I sort of accepted for years that the Bronx was just a neglected land in New York City to visitors and politicians. Nevertheless, it also made me realize that it’s the place that I call home, and a place I refuse to leave until I know I've done my part to help it grow and thrive.
It wasn’t until I became an educator that I understood the power behind voting. As a former educator, I wanted to empower students to understand just how important it is for them to use their various backgrounds to their advantage. I haven’t come across people, who were as street smart, resilient, intelligent, and more socially conscious about the issues that are actually occurring around them everyday. I learned this all through my students. I knew that my kids deserved the same opportunities as other students outside of the Bronx. And whether I liked it or not, the person who I choose to vote into office affects policies in education and even further, policies that affect my community.
I choose to vote because I am honestly exhausted. I am tired of having the privileged majority, who understands very little about my community, dictate what they believe is best for my community. I am exhausted with the idea that the people who've been living in the Bronx for generations have been forgotten, or worse, exploited by the economic and political elite. I want the Bronx to be remembered for the exact reasons why I never forget each of my students. We are powerful, resourceful, and more aware about what we should do to better our community. I want to know that the person I am voting for is thinking about the best for my community: the small businesses, the bodegas, the immigrants, the parks, the art we call graffiti -- all of the essential aspects that make the Bronx so beautiful.
I'm the vote that speaks for the immigrants who've been silenced or don't yet have the status to vote. I'm the vote that stands for equality for all immigrants in this country. I'm the vote for the students who I know deserve to be given more resources in the education system. I'm the vote that stands up for the rights of my community.
I am one vote, yet I'm still a vote that counts. And that's more than enough for me to make sure everyone hears it.