Vera Kersey was letting her dog out Monday night when she heard gunshots ring out in her neighborhood within Martindale-Brightwood.
She was already planning to wake up early next morning to cast her vote in the Marion County Primary Elections. After hearing the shots, the 64-year-old began to hope that who she voted for would focus on the crime in her area.
“They shot up a house on 25th and Sherman, and I live on 28th and Keystone. I hear shooting once or twice often. It’s a lot,” said Kersey, who has been voting since she was 18.
She remembers voting for President Jimmy Carter and feeling that his presidency contributed its support to the African American community.
Kersey walked through the polling doors of IPS SUPER School #19 Tuesday morning to cast her vote. After needing a little assistance with the voting machine, she gathered her “I voted #IndyVOTES” sticker while heading out the door.
The entire process took less than five minutes since there were not that many people in line.
In fact, as Kersey was casting her vote, only one other voter walked in.
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She has been living in Indianapolis her entire life and said the primary elections on this side of town have always had low turnout.
With a population of over 12,000 people in Martindale-Brightwood, 91% of residents are people of color.
“We need change. I vote because I want to see change. Over the years, I’ve never seen a lot of younger people come out. I’ve asked my daughter to come out and vote. They don’t think that it’s going to change anything,” said Kersey.
The value of voting for younger generations
15 minutes away at the Ivy Tech Community College polling site, 17-year-old Joshua Lewis passes out political pamphlets.
The Warren Central High School student is too young to vote now; however, he plans to volunteer until then because his family has instilled in him the importance of voting.
His great grandmother was the vice chair of the Indiana Democratic Party, and his grandparents have helped with the voting polls every year.
For African Americans, voting holds significance, given the long and difficult history of racial discrimination in the U.S.
Black people have fought for the right to vote since the earliest days of American democracy.
Lewis’ grandparents made sure to impress upon him this history, but this important history is often not heavily impressed upon other Black youth.
“I’ve talked about voting with a couple of my friends. I think they don’t see the value because older people don’t get as involved with us. If they were then we would all probably get out and vote,” said Lewis.
17-year-old Joshua Lewis is the great grandson of Cordelia Lewis-Burns who served as Vice Chair of the Indiana Democratic Party.
He passed out political pamphlets at Ivy Tech Community College while his grandparents served as poll workers for the 2023 Marion County Primary Elections
He feels that voting could improve community problems if the collective focused on their shared issues and backed the right candidate who promises to address them.
24-year-old Ivy Tech student Tierra Polk said it is important to know what is going on in a community and to have the choice to vote on what goes on.
“A lot of people feel as though one vote does not matter, but in reality, it could make a difference, and that’s a difference I’m willing to vote on,” said Polk.
The value of voting throughout generations
Voting remains an essential tool for African Americans to make their voices heard. By voting, African Americans can elect leaders who will champion their causes and create policies that benefit their communities.
By voting, African Americans can help ensure that their community is fairly represented in government and that their interests are considered when decisions are made that affect their lives.
Polk feels that voting is a critical means of exercising her right and making her voice heard in a democracy that has not always been welcoming to the participation of people that look like her.
24-year-old Tierra Polk is studying business administration at Ivy Tech Community College.
Although she learned the value of voting from her mother she notes that there is a divided perspective on voting importance even within families because her brother doesn’t vote.
The struggle for voting rights reached its peak during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s when activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis risked their lives to secure voting rights for Black Americans.
That was between the time that Kersey was born.
“I’ve been around the primaries a time or two. There’s so much that needs changing right now. Like, the economy. I’m having a hard time finding a job at my age,” said Kersey.
Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON