It’s November! My favorite month out of the year! When I was just a wee brownie colored girl back in Detroit, November was the month of Thanksgiving and the annual Thanksgiving Day parade that shimmied down Woodward Avenue in all its fabulosity. My favorite part of the parade? The high school bands of course! There is nothing like a good Black high school marching band. November also brought the beauty of nature, the color change of the trees across the Michigan landscape, and the first crisp, white, snowflakes of the year. But the reason that November had me dancing like I was perfecting my steps in the Beyonce’ “Cuff It” challenge is the fact that November is my birthday month. My birthday falls towards the end of November which gave me permission to celebrate the entire month in my young mind. Now as I slip further into middle-age, I celebrate November like a good, sweet, vintage wine. I sip it slow, savor the flavor, and let it glide across the palate. I never celebrated my birthday as a child and into most of my adulthood because I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which may explain why the month of November holds such a powerful significance in my life.

When I began to examine the faith that I inherited as I approached my thirties, the religiosity that I lived by, and how I viewed the world did not quite line up. I had a voice outside of the religion that I practiced. I had opinions about my neighborhood, my city, and the school district in which my children were educated in. I was a recent college graduate, my husband and I had purchased our first home, and I was a reporter for a local magazine. I inserted myself in conversations about city, state, and national politics and discovered that I liked it. No. I loved it. I breathed it. I thrived in those spaces. And then it happened. That feeling of accountability. That feeling that I wasn’t doing my part. At the time, Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that voting or participating in politics was a conflict of interest. You either were representative of God’s government, or Satan’s. Voting was a taboo. But I just could not reconcile that belief in my mind or my heart in November of 2000. I just felt that I had to be accountable. If I wanted certain neighborhood services, and if I wanted my community and school system to benefit from the property taxes that my neighbors and I were paying; if I wanted better for my children, then I had to vote.

In 2000, I became a registered voter and voted in my very first election that November. Now was I scared, dressed in black, and in a big coat to hide my identity just in case a fellow Jehovah’s Witness might see me entering the polling sight? Yes! Did I park way, way, way in the back of the parking lot so no one would recognize my mini van and point “Is that Sister Foster going to vote?” Yes! I laugh now at how ridiculous I looked and how ridiculous it was of me to be afraid of what other people thought about me, but the reality is that my fears were justified. The ramifications of my actions could have been the basis of being ostracized and excommunicated which is a huge thing in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community. However, no matter how scared I was, or how fearful I was of being caught, I did it and I have voted in every election for 22 years this month.

Tuesday Nov. 7, 2000, which would prove to be the historic Gore-Bush show down, I felt compelled to vote. My newly formed political awareness would not allow me to passively sit on my hands and not do something. I became a part of the “Get Out The Vote” movement and even though I hated Florida for a minute, I was satisfied that I had done my part. Of course, I didn’t hate Florida for long because the very next year I would vacation in Miami Beach, and because of that visit, relocate from Detroit to Florida three years later, where I promptly became a registered voter. In my 22 years since, I have been a Democrat, a member of the Green Party, and now, an Independent. I nurse a disenchantment with the Democrat party, but that does not prevent me from acknowledging that nowadays, we are essentially a two-party country…and if the winds of authoritarianism remain true to history, America has the potential to be a country where one political party will be the dominant factor. That is something that America has never been and goes directly against everything that the Founding Fathers of this country fought for. We are a country where healthy political dialogue is the basis of democracy and what separates us from monarchy and dictatorship. If that dialogue were to cease, and the Trumpublican MAGA party somehow managed to eclipse every political party in the country, as it has poised itself to do, what would happen to America? It is that fear that should have all of us at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8. It is that same fear that has me filling out my mail-in ballot and hopping in my truck to drop it off at the post office. Fear propelled me outside of myself to vote twenty-two years ago. I hope that the fear of Trumpism cementing and repairing the cracks in White supremacy propels Black voters across the country to vote early, vote by mail, vote in car groups, and simply just VOTE next Tuesday. Voting in some places may be a BYOWS or a bring your own water and snacks affair next week. If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness and you’re on the cusp of finding your own voice, my advice at this point is to VOTE NOW. Take a few hours off in the morning from your place of employment, dress incognito in sweats and a hoodie, and VOTE. Take a page out of my book. Just vote. And HAPPY NOVEMBER!