The past few years have been a stark reminder for many that our democracy is incredibly fragile and cannot be taken for granted. For far too many, democracy was something they thought this nation had attained, they could pat themselves on the back, put their “democracy” in a frame and hang it on the wall to be admired. What many of us have known and are constantly reminded of, is that democracy is a set of daily choices and decisions on the individual and collective level. We know this nation is far from perfect, but the only way it will change is if we become the most active participants on the electoral level, in our communities, and in our civic life.
Since I am a professor, you know I love pop quizzes! So, pull out a piece of paper and a pen and get ready to take your quiz. Ok, here goes…
Here are a series of questions about your elected officials: Who is your city council member, your state legislator, and your state senator? Who are the elected officials who hold the top three offices in New York City: Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate? Who is your District Attorney? Who is your House Representative in Congress? Can you name the two U.S. Senators?
Here are some miscellaneous questions, let’s see if you can answer: In what district do you vote? What community board represents your area? Who are your District Leaders and do you know what they do? Do you know when the primary election will be held (hint: this June)? Do you know what date we go to the polls in November?
As for your civic duties: Have you called or gone to the https://portal.311.nyc.gov/ website to test your water quality (for free) in order for the city to better assess lead levels throughout neighborhoods and buildings? Have you supported Troop 6000 and/or do you know what that is? Does our neighborhood participate in community composting?
These are just a few questions we should be able to answer in order to begin to become active participants in our democratic process. No worries if you do not know all of the answers. You can go to https://www.voting.nyc/ to find out more about your voting process and you can go to https://www.mygovnyc.org/ to find out who your elected officials are.
If we want to make change in our democracy we must be active participants. If you currently are not, this pop quiz is not meant to make you feel bad, it is meant to help you get started on the road to active participation and a better understanding of those charged with protecting our basic human and civil rights as well as crafting policies to protect us…everything from the environment to education, reproductive rights and allocation of funds.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an Associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.