Tatiana Ali speaks to young voters about the power behind vocalizing their political standpoints.
From portraying the innocent Ashley Banks on the hit comedy show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” to recording her latest hip-hop album, Tatiana Ali is currently persuing a different aspect of her life. A Harvard graduate, Ali’s interest in political science blossomed throughout much of her schooling, but it wasn’t until she heard President Barack Obama’s speech during the 2008 election that she actually became a part of a political campaign.
During this year’s midterm elections, she joined thousands of other volunteers in the fight to spread the word about the importance of voting.
“We really thought we were going to be stuffing envelopes and going door-to-door, which we did do, but in addition to that, we ended up traveling and visiting schools [to] let people now how important it is to vote,” Ali said.
During this volunteer experience, she traveled the United States, giving inspirational speeches to both young students and older citizens who have never voted. Ali said many of her audiences didn’t believe in voting because they felt the government either couldn’t work for them or was against them completely.
“We told them, ‘No, you can take control,’” Ali said. “This is our government, and it won’t be our government until we stand up and vote and speak to the power and tell them, ‘No, I matter. I elected you, and you’re accountable to me.’”
With each speech Ali and the volunteers made, most of their audience registered to vote at the end of the events. Constantly traveling to places, such as community centers and school auditoriums, where people would listen was a key element to the success.
Ali explained how she set up voter registrations at night clubs hoping to target a younger population. She remembered one young man who she talked to at a club started crying because no one ever told him that his voice mattered.
She also said she told him people really cared about what he thought and by voting, he could demonstrate that. The young man registered to vote for the first time that night.
“That’s what really excites me about it,” she said. “The fact that it really does make a difference in people’s life.”
Ali’s parents are both immigrants – her mother from Panama and her father from Trinidad – which is a huge motivating factor for this young activist. She said her parents came to the U.S. for a better life and how she was raised to believe it is her job to do as much as possible to better her life, as well as the lives of others. Contributing to the community through inspirational speeches about voting is her way of fulfilling this ‘job’.
“I feel like there are a lot of voices out there that want to label us,” Ali said. “[These voices] put us in boxes and categories, depending on where you come from, that should mean that you’ll never go to college [and] that you can only work at a fast food restaurant. I think it’s important to have other voices out there that are telling you, ‘No, that’s not true, and if you work hard and believe in yourself, you really can accomplish anything you want.’”
Currently, Ali tours the country speaking to college students about the importance of education and reminding the students their voices count. With the midterm elections today, Ali said she has reminded students of the importance of voting.
“Standing up for ourselves, voting is standing up for yourself,” Ali said. “I absolutely believe that.
Sheila Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.