When most of the people in power don’t look like you, it’s hard to relate sometimes, let alone believe, that change is possible. It’s important to remember though that this is exactly what the powerful count on: you not showing up. All the more reason to prove them wrong.

In about a month, Americans will once again head to the voting booth. This isn’t a Presidential election year, but the 2018 midterm elections could very well be the most pivotal election of our lifetime. We, the people, have to not only participate in the electoral process, but also educate ourselves about the issues and demand that those seeking to represent us provide more than just lip service.

My team and I at theGrio have put together our agenda for the 2018 midterms to remind you why we must vote and why those votes have got to count. This is our manifesto; our decree to hold candidates accountable and let them know our concerns, our mandate and the reasons why supporting individuals who reflect these interests with both our manpower and dollars is pivotal.

Here’s a look at the issues that matter to us most. #BlackVoterPower

2Criminal Justice Reform

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The systemic problem of mass incarceration has many layers: who gets profiled and stopped to who receives a ticket/fine. We can’t forget about who gets arrested, who gets brutalized (and even killed at the hands of the state), who has access/money for an attorney, who receives a harsh sentence and so much more. Blacks are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. Black Americans are also more than twice as likely as whites to be killed by police.

We will only back politicians who support measures like eliminating bail requirements, requiring all police officers to wear body cams, doing away with mandatory sentencing minimums, as well as pushing the federal government to create a national database of victims of police brutality (and the officers who kill them), honor consent decrees that were reached with police departments around the country, requiring outside independent prosecutors for police-involved shootings and other national reforms.  We also need our elected officials to reinstate voting rights for released prisoners who have paid their debt to society and need to have their voices restored.