By now, I am sure that you know January 1st is the start of the new fiscal year, but it isn’t really New Year’s Day. In 1752, England lawmakers decided we should no longer create our calendar in relationship to the cycles of the moon, but we would follow the sun. Just like that, everything changed; instead of New Year’s day falling on March 25, we all began to celebrate it on January 1st. This many seem like a very small change, but think about the huge impact of that change. Think of the energy that people feel around January 1… the life changing decisions people make like going back to school or getting married. All of this orchestrated by changes in the law.

I know that American law doesn’t have a great track record within the black community. Fair representation and equal protection under the law are among some of the largest problems. No matter how loud Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders are, these problems start on a local level. No matter who wins, they will not have the same power to create the kind of effects on our lives as local leaders do. Bill Cosby’s, Tamir Rice’s and Sandra Bland’s cases were all affected by the local sheriffs, mayors, and district attorneys who we gave power to during local elections. Many of us are displeased with the system, as we should be. In an ideal world, we would just tear up our current system and start over, but the way white supremacy is set up that doesn’t seem to be an option. I suggest we start being more actively involved in the voting process, and then being clear about the laws as they change.

Voter turnout for local elections, typically held in off-cycle years, have always had a less participation as opposed to races set to take place in conjunction with presidential elections every 4 years, but the decline is getting worse. It seems many of us are just not interested in our local governing bodies. We seem to be reactionary to the laws at best, but not proactive.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of secret sessions, fake grand juries, and feeling the sting of white supremacy as we bury black children and destroy black families. And please, don’t tell me that our vote doesn’t count, because if our vote didn’t count they wouldn’t work so hard to try to suppress it. Local voting has the largest impact on our day-to-day living, and this is where we seem the least engaged. Instead of turning up, can we speak up? It is time to assert our voices, and when we vote, we are directly affecting who is in office and who they hire. These are your Governors, General Assemblymen/women, Mayors, City Councilmen, District Attorneys, Judges, Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, Police officers… all the way down to the guy who answers the phone for the Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.

Once we vote, our duty to ourselves, our community, and our children still isn’t over. We have to understand the laws as they are being morphed by those we vote into office. We have to make sure that those people are upholding their commitment to us. Many of the laws passed during the 2015 calendar year took effect January 1st. Do you know what laws have changed in your own county, city, and/or state? If so, I truly applaud you because most of us don’t.

For those of you who don’t know, here is what I was able to put together for you:

Alabama

Mississippi

Georgia

Tennessee

North Carolina

Texas

California

New York

If your state isn’t listed here… No worries, just Google it.