Greetings, readers. As a political scientist, I have dedicated myself to helping students become more informed of political processes, more politically aware of their surroundings and more knowledgable about how systems of power work (and sometimes do not work) in this country. I focus primarily on American politics, cities, race and immigration and participation. For any great democracy to function properly, participation is the key.

Many marginalized individuals and communities often ask themselves, “Why should I participate? The system is set up against us and will never change.” I fundamentally disagree. There are so many ways to participate both within the boundaries of institutions, as well as through protest politics. Both are important and necessary to see substantive change occur.

When thinking about ways you can participate, I always have my students write a letter to an elected official. Many young people are already jaded and ask how writing a letter to a busy elected official will ever bring about change. I simply apply the old adage that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. Many elected officials rely on constituents’ letters to affect their policy goals and priorities. Just to make sure we are on the same page, the shorthand for our local, state and national level elected officials is as follows. Local level politics refers to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council. State level politics refers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of the Legislature. National level politics refers to President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The president of the United States is not the only elected official who needs to receive a letter from a constituent. Have you ever thought about writing a member of the City Council or Legislature or de Blasio or Cuomo? So much policy is made on the local and state levels. Their budgets are in the millions, and many of those funds are discretionary. Obama likely cannot fix a broken elevator in your child’s school building, but a member of the City Council can see to it that changes are made. So many of our needs are handled by our representatives at the local and state levels.

Don’t forget, we have the power to vote these individuals out of office every two years (members of the U.S. House), every four years (the mayor, governor, president, City Council and members of the Legislature) and every six years (U.S. senators). These are important votes to make. Elected officials pay attention to who votes, and many of their efforts are focused on the most active constituents and faithful voters. Many elected officials rely on votes by faithful primary voters—oftentimes those who have written letters and received positive results and changes.

So I implore you, stay informed and realize you have the right, the duty and the power to demand the change you would like to see. There are several resources to assist you in finding out just who represents you and your community. The Gotham Gazette (www and City and State ( are just a few websites that offer information on all levels of government. There are no scheduled national, New York City or New York elections in 2015. However, get ready, 2016 will be a busy year for national elections, so start getting informed now.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”