I just voted.
I just made my stand for a democracy that didn’t always welcome my family and doesn’t always do so now.
I just voted to honor my ancestors who couldn’t vote, those who could and those who damn well did and demanded the same of their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Voting in our family has been like education. Getting a high school diploma was never an optional exercise. Getting a college degree was expected but could be replaced by hard work.
I just voted in honor of my grandparents, Lowney and Bennie Pitt, who died in 2000 less than three months apart, after 67 years of marriage. It is the fifth time I have voted for a U.S. President in their honor.
They missed the hanging chad election. They didn’t get to elect Sen. Barack Obama or re-elect President Barack Obama. They never got to witness the exceptional grace and fortitude of First Lady Michelle Obama. They didn’t get to express their pride in the First Daughters or comment about the First Dogs. (My grandmother might not have been so happy about the Obamas having pets in the White House).
They missed the Democratic Party nominating a woman as its candidate, the first time in our young country’s 240-year history that it has happened. Oh, I hope Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan are watching alongside Susan B. Anthony and the first women who fought.
My grandparents and all those who fought for civil rights for more than a century are not here to see the fruits of their work. I stood in a long line and joyously waited an hour this morning thanks to them.
I am the dividend my grandparents gave to America. I will continue to demand my place in the democracy they helped build with their blood, sweat and votes.
I just voted – for them, for myself and for my descendants who must always have a place at the table.
Too many fought too hard for that place at the table. So for those millennials and others who plan to leave their place empty today, remember this: If you ignore the table, you might one day not get to eat.
I just voted. And every election, every time I mark a ballot, it is the proudest moment of that day. Every time, it has led to a history I helped make.
That, in itself, makes the duty required.
Rochelle Riley’s newspaper column can be found at www.freep.com/rochelleriley. These are her personal reflections about her pursuit of life, liberty and whatever the hell else she wants. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.