Monday, November 10, 2014

November 4, 2014 Voting Polls: Is Our Government Racist Even With A Black President

Breaking the Afro-Latino Yoke in Western MA...


On August 20, 2014 I entered the City of Holyoke’s City Hall auditorium to attend the mandatory Poll Worker training. I noticed Mike Carlson of LHS Associates, the trainer, had no LCD screen to project images of the ballot machine and, no microphone.  The crowd murmured they couldn’t hear Carlson.  Amongst the mostly retired white female senior citizens I spotted a sprinkling of Latino and African Americans.  Carlson didn’t speak about the voting process, how to steward recently moved residents, incomplete voter lists, or how to educate voters without influencing their vote.  Despite having worked in my ward last November and attending the September training; I never received a call to work.  The day before the election I called Brenna McGee, the City of Holyoke’s new Registrar of Voter Clerk.  After some phone tag, I received a voicemail.

“Actually, my bilingual person called out so, I do have an opening but you need to get back to me right away.”  

I returned the call and confirmed myself for the morning shift at Falsetti Towers - a housing project for senior citizens in a predominantly Latino community.

“I am here to work,” I insisted pointing to myself and then, inside. A white police officer signaled me to enter the polling site with his index finger.  

“She’s here to work,” Susan Rosa yelled over to Larry Ryan, the poll Warden.   

Larry walked outside on his cell phone returning with another Latina woman.  When I looked up I realized they were both walking towards me. Larry bent over my table and quietly informed me

“Uh, I just got a call from City Hall; this woman was previously scheduled and she’s supposed to be here.  They called you but, I was just told to ask you to leave.”  

“I am not leaving, “I refused.  

“I don’t want any problems; I will leave,” the Latina woman offered.  

“No, we should both stay.  Why can’t there be more than one bilingual person when this is a predominantly Latino community?”  I questioned.  

“We, don’t need more than one; we don’t get that many,” Lynn, my table partner, whispered. The woman left.  

“I’m so sorry,” Lynn apologized.  From across the room, I heard Larry say

“I don’t get paid enough for this bullshit.”  

Voters streamed in non-stop and 75 percent were Spanish-speakers who bypassed Larry, Sue and Carol coming over to me.  Latino male elders posted outside the voting site ushered voters straight to me because I would help them.  In between streams, Lynn asked

“So you think our government is racist even with having a Black president?”  

“Perhaps that young man in Ferguson was a thug but, it just kills me about that other one...what was his name?”

“Trayvon Martin?” I offered.  

“Yes, oh, that just kills me every time I see it.”  

Most of her references were based on mainstream characterization of people of color asking me

“Why are Black neighborhoods so dirty?”  

I overheard Larry ask a Spanish-speaking woman at the registration table

“Who’s stupid, you?  I’m not stupid.”  Larry greeted residents mockingly “Kielbasa!”  

I overheard a son helping his mother.  

“We need you here.” I said.  The young man smiled.  

“You can do this; it’s not hard.  Go down to City Hall and request an application to work as an election poll worker, next year,” I encouraged him.  

“Really, where do I go?” he asked.  

“Just go right over to,” I started.  

“Could you help this man?” Larry demanded pointing to an English speaking voter I had already helped.  

“I will,” I answered.  

“No, go now!” Larry shouted.  

“I will go when I am finished talking with this young man!”

Later, Sue brought over a senior Native American, resident of the housing development.

“Her name is N- E-P-A-L,” she over annunciated in a loud voice as if I was hard of hearing.  

Ms. Nepal’s difficulty to speak and walk made her commitment to her civic duties all the more honorable.  I felt truly humbled to be in her presence; Ms. Nepal wasn’t the only one though.  Ms. Basilisa Maldonado an Afro-Latina senior resident stood straight as an arrow waiting patiently to vote and be checked out.  Ms. Maldonado’s graceful yet deliberate stride stole my attention and, I had to ask her PCA her age.  

“She will be 103 years old December 1st,” she confirmed.

I wanted to sit at her feet and relish her wisdom.  But, I settled for asking her permission to include her by full name in this article.  As Ms. Nepal left the voting site I overheard Sue telling Larry

“She’s Indian.”

“What?” Larry asked.  

“She’s Indian!” Sue repeated louder.  “You know, bwhoobwhoowhoo!” mockingly beating her mouth with her hand.  

I believe this account answers Ms. Lynn Seward’s question:

“Do you think our government is racist even with a Black president?”  


  1. I must say that was really well said. You did an amazing job on this article.
    I have seen bigotry and racism in alot of places that I go to, in my city of springfield and througout my travels. I feel it's from a lack of knowledge. The people that act this way see no fault in what they do. I really respect the fact you are standing up and saying something. It's like our generation has lost its voice, our voice has been drowned out wit violence and senseless murders. Nobody stands up anymore for our communities and our people. So thank you, for being a voice. I'm also sorry you have to endure and put up with these prejudices from people. Keep up the good work..

    1. Peace JT,
      Precisely! My purpose for writing this piece and launching this blog was for this very purpose of reclaiming my voice. In doing so, I hope to inspire others to do the same. Feel free to share my blog with others. And you keep up your have a calling not just a gift.

  2. If this doesn't motivate people to take action on their own behalf I don't know what will. I really liked reading this article and and glad to know that you stood up to take your place in that moment. It's very unfortunate that they had the mind to behave that way, but at least they showed who they truly are. I am grateful to your community work for people of color and justice and know that those that encountered you at the poll that day felt your presence among those racist, disrespectful and disgusting people. Thank you for posting this blog.