Taraji P. Henson, Marc Lamont Hill join theGrio’s panel ‘Vote For Your Life’

With just a week left before the election on Nov. 3, the panel discussed what's at stake if Black Americans don't exercise their voting power.

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For the fifth consecutive week, theGrio held its virtual town hall, Vote For Your Life, on Facebook. A week after hosting Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, the online panel featured two new faces: actress Taraji P. Henson and author/professor Marc Lamont Hill.

The two joined mainstays Natasha S. Alford, the host and theGrio’s VP of Digital Content, CEO of theGrio Byron Allen, and White House correspondent April Ryan returned after a one-week absence.

Read More: Charlamagne Tha God, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Common urge ‘Vote For Your Life’

Left to right: Taraji P. Henson, Byron Allen, April Ryan, Marc Lamont Hill and Natasha S. Alford discuss politics and voting during “Vote For Your Life” town hall.

With just a week left before the election on Nov. 3, the panel discussed what’s at stake if Black Americans don’t exercise their voting power. Ryan reiterated President Donald Trump‘s plea to African Americans to vote for him in 2016 and laid out what his administration has ultimately done after nearly four years in office.

“This president four years ago said what did African-Americans have to lose,” Ryan stated of Trump. “We are losing everything from our lives to our homes to every thing that means something; our families.”

She went on to say that the damage that has been done to the Black community in the U.S. since 2017 still has a chance to be fixed if Black voters get to the polls. Otherwise, there may be no turning back, saying “the next four years, if we go backwards, if we lose ground … [we] will never regain it in our lifetime. This is a chance for us to change the course that we’re going down.”

READ MORE: Kamala Harris has a message for Black men: ‘We have to earn your vote”

April Ryan theGrio.com
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Early voting has been a hot button topic for this election cycle, and for the panel, it was a subject of particular importance. With early ballots being turned in and people showing up at early poll centers, it seems like a good sign, but Hill said that this is only the start.

There was a time when, at this stage, you got 10,000 early votes. You were happy. Now you’ve seen hundreds of thousands of votes in places like Florida, Michigan, et cetera. So for me, that’s a big part of it,” the best-selling author said.

“So it’s a sign, but it ain’t the whole story … please don’t vote and think the work is done, because Trump has a way of being a night in and pulling out something that you ain’t seen before — it’s not just him, the closer is the Supreme Court. So make sure that you don’t give up and that you don’t give in and think that the work is done and you don’t have to show up on November 3rd.

READ MORE: Avalanche of early votes is transforming the 2020 election

Henson is way ahead of the curb, sharing that she has already done her due diligence for herself and her son to get her ballots in early and on time. The Golden Globe winner said that voters need to pay more attention to the fine print when it comes to the process at the polls.

“We gonna roll right on in with our with our cheat sheet, because don’t just go there trying to figure it out the day off,” Henson said. “Whenever I voted, whenever they send me the sample ballot, I fill it out. It’s like school, y’all. We got to go back to school. It is that serious.”

Actress and mental health advocate Taraji P. Henson, founder of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, speaks during a hearing before the Congressional Black Caucus’ Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health June 7, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The seriousness of the situation was echoed by Allen, who continued to champion not only the power of the Black vote as the ultimate tie-breaker but the power of the Black dollar as a way to help politicians down the ballot come to power and have a more direct effect on change in communities of color.

“We can march all we want. We can sing Negro spirituals. But the moment we all vote and the moment we all donate is the moment they will get off of our neck forever,” Allen stated.

Allen added that Black Americans are in a centuries-long state of “genocide.” Only now, because of technology allowing incidents like George Floyd‘s death to be recorded and go viral, it can no longer be ignored as simply a Black issue.

Read More: Byron Allen: ‘Black America speaks. America should listen.’

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“You can’t hide it anymore,” Allen said. “Before, the genocide was over in the ghetto. We didn’t have to witness it. But now this camera is recording it and showing the world.

Despite the world seeing the effects that a Trump administration has had on Black Americans, he is gaining ground with Black male voters in 2020 compared to 2016, which puzzles Ryan to no end.

This president is a liar. Point blank. He is a liar. And we are taking it,” Ryan said. “And I don’t know why he is looking to get the Black vote, particularly Black men. And he’s got a certain percentage … double-digit number. I need someone to help me understand.”

Hill spoke of how the rhetoric surrounding Black people in the U.S. has been because the public good is racialized,” causing many white people to vote against things that wind up being a detriment to their own interests.

(Photo: Getty Images)

“So, if something is seen as for the public good, they see it as the Black vote. And so white folk will close ranks around their whiteness so that they can feel good about being white, even if they’re catching more hell in the Black people they think they vote against. So this all come back into the equation, and for Black men, it’s the same thing.”

He went on to explain via the comparison of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein that one of the reasons that the former gets in more trouble that the latter for the same crime is because of the lack of care for Black women.

Our vision of freedom is to be as reckless and dangerous, as violent as as white men,” Hill explained. “So our ‘freedom dream’ — to use Robin Kelly, historian’s language — our freedom dream has to be more humane and more robust in it. My dream of freedom can’t be to be an oppressor.”

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