A Deep Look: Black Voters in New York City

Image of P.S 152, the main polling site for many Black, disabled, and otherwise disenfranchised voters in the Flatbush, Brooklyn area for over 10 years.

By Alana Matthew

Howard University News Service

Elections of any kind hold significance, as they are the foundation of our democracy but this mid-term election for 2022 has many people anxious and worried. On the heels of President Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and election changes and disruption, many have been finding a new appreciation for the importance of voting. While others remain discouraged. As midterm elections proceed, Black voters and non-voters in New York City have reflected on the act. 

As voting comes to an end on Nov. 8, voters must remember the weight elections hold on everyday life as several liberties are under attack. The big issues on the ballot include abortion, cost of living, and crime.

The impact of voting has been long discussed historically where the liberties of communities of color, low-income individuals, and those that may need greater assistance from society. Voter suppression is a fundamental tactic from Republican officials that specifically prey on those that are not white, and part of that propaganda is convincing voters that they don’t have a say nor do their votes, in any election, matter. 

Kaylin Brianni Williams, a part-time pharmacy technician and full-time chemistry major at Hunter College, is actively fighting this hurdle. She has voted in every election since she became eligible to vote in 2019. 

“People do not usually vote during the midterms, so you need more voters to support candidates that are running in state elections. are adding a lot of votes that end up being lost when it’s not a presidential election, said Williams. “…these seats in the Senate and House directly impact us and our states and it’s important to protect the little rights that we have here in New York” 

Although New York is not considered a swing state, similar to Florida, Texas, and Georgia, the results can still mean big things for New Yorkers. 

Keena Humphrey, project manager and resident of the state for 35 years, has also emphasized the importance of voting, particularly in this election. “There are some important proposals, creating an Office of Racial Equity and tracking the actual cost of living, to name a few”, said Humphrey. “This election season, be the change you wish to see, and vote.”

Image of the 023 election and 42 assembly districts indicating to voters the exact place to locate their ballot based on address, as taken in Oct. 2020.

The ballot includes not only the proposals Humphrey mentioned but significant offices that affect the quality of life of New Yorkers. The state is voting for a governor, the state comptroller, the attorney general, seats in the Senate, assembly members, and more. 

But, while many Black voters in the city would like to exercise this particular right as an American, the process has certainly not been made easy by way of voter suppression and apathy. 

Myrnette Millington, criminal justice business major at Northeastern University and a native of New York, tried to vote but experienced a fairly typical runaround when she arrived at the polls. After returning home, specifically to take part in this election, she found out her name hadn’t been registered but instead a parent’s name had been registered twice. 

“This simple or not-so-simple error had an impact on my voting experience resulting in me ultimately not voting altogether”, Millington expressed.”… I would not have felt seen or heard either way if something as significant as my name was not registered correctly in their database” 

Junior Dubourg, security officer and native of New York, mentioned a lack of interest in politics altogether regardless of impact. “Personally, I haven’t voted simply because I’ve never been into politics,” said Dubourg. “Although voting plays a major impact on our economy, I’ve just always looked past taking part of doing so” 

As voter suppression and disenfranchisement run amuck, churches in Brooklyn have historically been a hub of Black civic engagement. Pastors and members of their congregation run and win elections, in turn, others come to visit to share their platforms with the community. The First Baptist Church of Crown Heights (FBCCH) has been a stop on the campaign trail of many candidates over the last 30 years, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and attorney general Letitia James.

Image of postings for Gov. Hochul and AG James in the Crown Heights/Prospect Park, Brooklyn area.

Reverend Rashad Raymond Moore, senior pastor of FBCCH, Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and resident of New York, had thoughts on the role churches play in Black civic engagement. 

“For communities of color, there is a growing sense of voter apathy caused partly by disappointment and misinformation. Churches, HBCUs, and civic organizations must continue encouraging our people to vote,” said Moore. “Casting a ballot is an act of faith and defiance against the powers that try to stifle and muzzle our voices.” 

New York residents can continue to vote until Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. More information can be found by dialing 1-866-Vote-NYC or visiting https://findmypollsite.vote.nyc/ to find the nearest poll site.