Joan Smalls Has a Message for the Latinx Community: "It's Time for Our Voices to Be Heard"

Joan Smalls
·4 min read
Photo credit: Instagram/Joan Smalls
Photo credit: Instagram/Joan Smalls

From Oprah Magazine

Ahead of the 2020 election, activist and model Joan Smalls has teamed up with Voto Latino to encourage the Latinx community to vote. Here, she shares an exclusive essay with OprahMag.com with a message for Latinx voters.

Division. There is so much division in our country right now, I’m not sure how to deal with it. I have seen trials, and I have experienced hurdles in my professional and personal life but never have I seen so much hate and separation between people.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, I was taught to respect those around me, to listen when they talked, and to work with those that I may not agree with. My parents showed me that hard work, determination, and mutual respect can lead you to great achievements. As we get closer to the end of a turbulent year, it’s hard not to think back to what we were taught when we were children.

I hope, for most, that you were taught to be respectful, to seek out those who were different from you, and to make friends when you could—many sentiments and practices that are now dangerously on the verge of going extinct. And as the days and weeks lead to election day in November, many of us are anxious to see the outcome—but there is so much that must happen before we see the end result.

Voting isn’t a luxury, but a privilege—a right and a duty for all of us to commit to. Voting in our elections helps us push for the change we strive to see. As a proud Afro-Latina, activist, and supermodel, I see it as my duty to use my platform and experiences to help inform those around me of ways to be involved in the process and how to exercise their right as American citizens.

Did you know that the Latino community will be the second-largest voting bloc in the 2020 election? To put that into perspective, that is about 32 million Latinos that will be eligible to vote in the November 2020 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. It's time for our voices to be heard, and for us to stand up for ourselves—and what better time to start the conversation than now?

The last four years have not been kind to many, especially the Latino and Black communities. Our cultures are painted as criminals and a nuisance to society when in actuality, so much of American culture comes from Latin and Black influences. We are a proud people who are capable of making real change happen.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Joan Smalls
Photo credit: Courtesy of Joan Smalls

I am so passionate about this because there are so many people out there who are refused their simple civil right to vote. This is why I have partnered with the Voto Latino Foundation to help encourage the Latinx community and everyone else to get out and vote! This year, voting may look different than it did previously, but we all want to do our part to help people know where, when, and how to vote. We cannot let confusion or fear deter the American people from voting.

This year has given everyone trials. A pandemic doesn’t care about our race, culture, social status, or annual income. The travesties of 2020 have wreaked havoc on all groups and all people. We have crossed all boundaries and lines of discrimination and are in desperate need of reform and change. We must elect the right, most qualified person for the most important job in the world. To govern the American people is the highest and most prestigious office to hold, and one that should be approached with calm, reserve, dignity, compassion and respect—none of which have been seen in quite some time.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Joan Smalls
Photo credit: Courtesy of Joan Smalls

I say all of these things to encourage those who have said, “My one vote doesn’t matter,” with two words: you’re wrong! It does matter—immensely. Every single vote counts and matters in this election; whether you are Black, white, Latino, or whatever—you matter, and your voice matters. Use this opportunity at the polls to scream from the rooftops about what you deserve as a human being, and as an American citizen.

I urge every eligible person within the Latinx community or anyone who wishes to learn more to visit VotoLatino.org. Or if you want to be more involved, see how you can become a poll worker. Go vote! Vote early, and if you can’t vote early, show up on November 3 prepared. Be sure to have all the proper identification, bring water, snacks, and whatever you need in order to be prepared to wait in line to vote. Don’t be discouraged, because this is one of—if not the most important—thing you will do this year.

It is going to be up to every single one of us to do our part and turn out on November 3, or earlier, to vote. Let us be the ones who help the tides turn for the better. Use your voice and be heard!

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