Charlene Murray: I’m a Daddyless Daughter

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More than 20 million children are growing up fatherless. Charlene, 28, used to be one of those children. In her first blog, Charlene shares her experiences as a daddyless daughter and as a guest on Oprah’s Lifeclass!

I’m a Daddyless Daughter

Charlene Murray

 After over 15 years of inconsistency and complete absence, my father and I reunited and began building what I feared to be a relationship. I was 24-years-old and fresh out of undergrad and at the time, he was a few years free from drugs. Allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to simply say hello to him slowly blossomed into conversations by text, a fishing trip, a better understanding of his addiction and many, many dry attempts at “getting together soon”.  For five years, we pretended we were building, but really, we just talked about it. I would never initiate contact because I was fearful that at some point, for reasons including, drug relapse, alcohol abuse, the desire to be elsewhere or even death, that he would leave me after I had invested so much attention in him. So, I tried not to, until I accidentally told him that I loved him back. I have an unfinished poem about this, describing how disgusted I was at myself for being so careless, and that’s when I realized that I might have some “daddy issues” worth dealing with.

This year, before submitting my entry to an Oprah Lifeclass episode about women who grew up without fathers, my dad and I hadn’t spoken or seen each other in two months. I was beginning to feel the effects of the roller coaster and I don’t care for those in the literal or the figurative sense. Less than two weeks went by before one of Oprah’s producers called me to hear my story, something I thought no one would care to hear. In fact, I have just recently become comfortable calling it “my story”, when for so long, the details- the pain and truth were all my secrets. Sometime later, producers called to arrange a filmed interview and shortly after invited me to participate in the show. Though nerve-wrecking, the experience gave me, and later my father (as he was invited for a filmed interview) a platform to openly discuss an issue that had been suppressed by circumstance for so long.

Participation in the show opened so many doors of communication for my father and me, which has proven to be most important. Personally, it has opened my soul to recognize and receive beautifully-spirited people, like Tunette Powell, whose identifiable personal past and book, The Other Woman, has given me the motivation to turn the momentum I acquired from the Lifeclass experience into a life-long journey.  After convincing myself for so long that I was okay with the fact that a father was one thing in life I would never experience, I am finally able to recognize him as a family member and this is big. I still worry he’ll leave me. I still blame him for some of my brother’s struggles. At times, I still keep my distance but I am still learning. I’m still growing. This is all part of my life-long journey. 

Charlene, who lives in Chicago, will keep us updated on her journey! You can follow her on Twitter at @SeeCharTweet. Leave a comment or send her a tweet to show your support!  

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Tunette, the only black author at the Nebraska Book Festival, reads from her new book!

Since the release of Tunette’s book, she has been in demand! On Saturday, she and 19 other authors from Nebraska read at the Nebraska Book Festival, which was held at the Thompson Alumni Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The two-day festival featured some of the biggest names throughout the state, including Leo Adam Biga.
 
Although the event lacked diversity in both matters of race and gender, Tunette proudly stood before a packed crowd to read “Track 14” from her new memoir, “The Other Woman.”
Nebraska                                                       Festival
 
This event marks the second in just two weeks where Powell has stood alongside some of the biggest and best authors in Nebraska. Just two weeks before the festival, Tunette read at a Women’s History Month event hosted by Les Femmes Folles, an organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting local women in all forms of the arts. 
 
 
See Tunette:
This month you can see her speak about “How Race and Place Intersect and Interact”  from 2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. on April 24th at the this year’s Malcolm X Festival at UNO. She will also be hosting a book signing at 1 p.m. on April 27th at the Bookworm in Omaha, Neb. To learn more about this month’s events or future events, please join our mailing list by emailing “sign me up” to info@tunettepowell.com.

Tunette celebrates Women’s History at Girls Inc. of Omaha and pays homage to some of the world’s most marginalized and forgotten women!

March is Women’s History Month! And March 3rd happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Suffragists March on Washington DC, where more than 3,000 women marched through muddy, cold streets demanding a constitutional amendment that would allow women to vote, which would come about in the form of the 19th amendment 7 years later.  March 8th was International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was “A Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”  The theme focused on celebrating women’s achievements as well as acknowledging the ways the world still needs to improve in areas of gender equality, and pushing for those improvements. 

 It’s impossible to cover the entirety of women’s history in a single blog post, so I’d like to highlight some parts of women’s history that are even further marginalized and forgotten – the histories of women of color, trans* women, poor women, disabled women – that the more frequently celebrated histories of cis, white, upper or middle class, able-bodied women. Though all women’s stories are frequently forgotten or misrepresented in history books as well as more modern media, certain women’s stories are privileged over others.

 For example, the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose genetic material – extracted without her knowledge or consent in 1951 – has been used in numerous medical advances such as the development of the polio vaccine.  Scientists have made billions of dollars off the research conducted with her cells, yet her name is fairly unknown and her modern living relatives are mostly poor.

 Or Sylvia Rae Rivera, a Puerto Rican and Venezuelan transgender activist who was a major player in the Stonewall Riots in 1969, a major landmark for the LGBT rights movement.  Rivera continued to be a vocal transgender rights activities throughout the 1970s and 80s.

 We can also look to Audre Lorde, a black and lesbian author and activist who was a frequent voice of criticism against the overwhelming focus on middle class, white, straight women in the mainstream second wave feminist movement, which led to the exclusion of issues facing minority women. Race issues, queer issues, class issues, these are all women’s issues. And women’s issues cannot be understood separately from them is a point Lorde made clear in her works.

In the spirit of the celebration of the stories of women and girls, on March 5th, Tunette spoke with a group of 30+ girls at Girls, Inc., an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women. Tunette and her publisher, WriteLife, donated a total of 10 copies of her new book, “The Other Woman”, to the organization. Tunette shared excerpts from her book with the students, and talked about her inspirational life story.  She also helped bring the girls together in solidarity by helping them realize how much they have in common.

Girls Inc.

 The failure of the institutions of education as well as traditional media outlets to adequately and accurately represent the historical and present realities of women of all backgrounds – not just a select, privileged few – is nothing new. It also needs to change. The arrival of social media outlets for vloggers, bloggers, micro-bloggers, and others allows many women to have a voice they could not have without a free, online platform.  And the more women who share their unique stories and perspectives, the more young girls can understand they’re not alone in this world, with a vast array of role models to help them through it.  Understanding of women’s history helps us understand the present state of affairs for women in our own communities as well as across the world, as well as inspires us to push forward for a better future for all women.

I’d like to encourage you to use Women’s History Month as a motivation to read, watch, and otherwise consume media – whether that is a blog, a book, a podcast, a television show, or anything else – that is created by women, particularly showcasing women’s stories.  Whether they are stories about women existing, struggling, and succeeding today, or in our past, it is well worth it to learn.  Or perhaps volunteer and get involved with a local organization championing the rights of women and girls.

Here’s What Tunette’s Been Up To!

By Kelsey Davis, columnist/blogger for tunettepowell.com

We are back from a several-month hiatus to give you regular updates from Tunette. So let’s play catch up!

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  • Tunette released her first book, “The Other Woman” in January 2013. Her long-awaited debut memoir was received well and on Jan. 26th, Tunette hosted a book release party to celebrate the book at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The release party including several excellent performances, including a solo by Tunette’s mother. Dozens after dozens filled the university’s art gallery to purchase a copy of the book and to hear live readings from Tunette. The evening was a lovely and intimate kick start to the sale of her book.

 

  • On Friday, Feb. 15th, Tunette was privileged to be invited to introduce the phenomenal performance of “Emergency” by Off-Broadway star Daniel Beaty.  As with all of Beaty’s performances, someone prominent in the city he is performing in is always asked to introduce him. Tunette was humbled to be selected. If you missed the one-night performance at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, you can pick up a DVD recording of his performance from his website, www.danielbeaty.com.

 

  • Following that up on Saturday Feb. 16th, Tunette participated in an Author Fair hosted by the Omaha Public Library, with a host of other local authors. If you missed out on the chance to get your copy of “The Other Woman” signed by Tunette, there will be more opportunities in the future. For a list of book signings for Tunette, please join our mailing list by emailing “sign me up” to info@tunettepowell.com.

 

  • On Feb. 21st, Tunette braved the impending blizzard in Omaha and the frustrations of airline customer service – you can check out her twitter @TunettePowell to read the drama – to make it home to San Antonio to see her father graduate from culinary school. What a wonderful achievement – with the thrilling surprise of seeing him win the top chef award!

 Dad's Grad

  • While in San Antonio, Tunette had another successful book signing at the Twig Book Shop, with a host of positive coverage from the San Antonio Express-News, 1480 A.M. radio, NPR, and San Antonio Magazine.  Unusual for a book signing, the people who came for their signed books stuck around, prompting several readings from Tunette’s recently published book, “The Other Woman”, as well as a lengthy question and answer session with Tunette and her immediate family.

Radio

 If you haven’t picked up a copy of “The Other Woman” yet, you can get it from the Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, the Book Worm in Omaha, or online from Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.  Your support will bring the book to more shelves in more places, so we thank you for it!

 Lastly, if you’ve been dying to hear more from Tunette, you should check out her weekly blog on www.momaha.com.  Stay tuned for more updates!

 

BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE RELEASE OF MY FIRST BOOK, THE OTHER WOMAN!

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Nearly three years ago, I started writing my first book. At the time, I was a full-time college student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and six months pregnant with my second child. It was a challenging time for me because while I was here in Omaha, Neb. trying to better myself, my father was struggling to overcome his addiction to crack cocaine.

I originally started writing to vent. Having seen my father fall victim to crack cocaine so many times, all I wanted to do was forget about everything. But as I continued to write, I started to understand my father. And from there, the venting turned into a book. In May of this year, I completed my book, and in July I agreed to publish my book through WriteLife Publishing Company.

This book, or as I like to call it “The Other Woman,” is a memoir that tugs as you like a timeless song. For the past four months, I have shared excerpts from my book with my mailing list members. They have learned a lot about me and my father, and are ready to read the whole book.

So it is with great pleasure that I report some breaking news about the book:

Straight from the publishing company’s mouth: “The Other Woman” will be “in distribution by Christmas.” As such, you will be able to pre-order my book in December!

Until then, if you would like to read an excerpt from The Other Woman, please email “sign me up” to info@tunettepowell.com. I will be more than happy to send you a chapter. Thank you and have a blessed week!

Tunette

The most incredible thing you can do today…

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It’s Tuesday with Tunette! Normally, I share stories and words of wisdom and inspiration. Today, I want to share wisdom and inspiration in one word:

Vote!

Today is not about me. It is about us. If you are registered to vote and have not, please consider doing so.

If you are not registered or are ineligible to vote, please do what you can today to vote tomorrow.

I will be back next Tuesday with a story, praise report and/or words of inspiration. But as for today, VOTE! Be heard and remember the sacrifices and fight of those who came before us!

Blessings,

Tunette

Joy Kathurima’s story: We can do anything in this great country.

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It is very easy for us to take things we did not work for or have to earn for granted. I know that four years ago when I chose not to vote, I took the very right to do so for granted. Today’s story comes from Joy Kathurima, a native of Nairobi, Kenya. Her story offers a beautiful twist to this American life we often take for granted. I pray that her story not only inspires you to take things like voting more seriously, but also family and friends. Enjoy and have a blessed week! -Tunette

By Joy Kathurima

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. When I was 5, my family relocated and we arrived in America on August 17, 1997. At first the transition was difficult. I watched my mom work multiple jobs while my father attended graduate school in the morning and worked full-time in the evening. I watched my parents struggle to make a better life for themselves and their children in a strange country. They did this without friends or family support.

Experiencing this struggle has had a tremendous impact on my life. I learned a new culture with different customs in a matter of months. While trying to make friends in school, I had to learn a new language. I have become extremely close to my immediate family while my extended family resides back in Kenya. My family and I have moved four more times since arriving in America and each time has been harder than the last. Throughout these experiences, I have learned so much through my family.

My parents have instilled in me a sense of pride in where I come from and where my life will take me. I learned how to meet new challenges head on and never be frightened to question what is around me. I have learned that I must work to reach my goals. I may have many trials and errors, but I must always pick myself back up and try harder to become the person I want to be. I know that the things I have learned and experienced will help me achieve my goals and succeed in life.

When then-Senator Barack Obama announced that he was running for president in February of 2007, I knew very little about him. As the primaries unfolded, I began to believe in the change that Barack Obama was speaking of. Though I was only 16 and not yet a citizen, I donated to the campaign and talked to every 18-year-old I knew about why they should vote for him. My family and I watched with great pride and awe as the President-Elect and the future First Family walked onto the stage in Chicago.

Every few months I watch the speech he gave that night, to remind myself that, yes, we can do anything in this great country. In July of 2010, I became the last member of my family to become a naturalized citizen. This will be the first Presidential election I get to vote in, and I could not be more proud to support a President who has made so many historic changes.

In a climate where so many people are still afraid to defend equal rights, President Obama took a stand by repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In a climate where so many people are willing to deprive their fellow citizens of potentially life-saving health care, President Obama took a stand to pass Health Care Reform. And in a climate when nearly 89 percent of first-generation, minority students either fail or drop out of college in the first year, President Obama took a stand by doubling Pell Grants to give all young people a chance at success. Each and every one of these changes has impacted me personally or impacted someone I love, which is why I want to be a part of the continuing change for this country.

 Earlier this year, Joy shared her story with our First Lady, Michelle Obama.

 

Purpose is greater than position and profit!

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Two months ago, I was sitting in my living room and I burst into tears. On one end, I was blessed and elated to have helped so many people through my testimony and those of others. But on the other hand, I was frustrated because up until that point, while everything I did turned over spiritual joy, it didn’t reap monetary gain.

I have never needed money to feel justified. I have never sought to help people just to get a dollar. But even I had to confront myself and my situation. I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha this year. With that diploma came an email from the Direct Loan Servicing Center reminding me that my accomplishment came with a price that I still had to pay.

A diploma also begged the question, “When will you look for a job?”

It’s a question that everyone had a right to ask. After all, for the past year I have received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), which is a just a fancy name for food stamps. And while food stamps coupled with my husband’s senior airman salary has been enough, I wasn’t satisfied.

But every time I wanted to go get a job – any job – I felt an inner-calling to dismiss the idea. It was as if God was telling me, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

I cried every day after that day I was in my living room. Three weeks into my cry-fest, after consulting my mother, husband, spiritual advisor and former speech coach, I made a deal with God.

God, I will be patient. I will let you work. But you have to at least give me peace while I’m waiting for you to show me what you want me to do with my life. Please, don’t let me go crazy while I wait.

As days and weeks passed since I’d made that deal with God, I continued doing what I felt was right. I worked with with youth, prayed for those who requested prayer, shared inspiring stories and spoke wherever I was requested at no cost.

Nearly two months later, the tears have dried and the money has come. Most recently, I was hired as a mom blogger for the Omaha World Herald, a major daily newspaper. This is a position that takes no more than an hour of my time per week. In addition to that position, I recently accepted a position as a program director at the Boys and Girls Club – Morton. I have also been asked to write two nonfiction books.

These opportunities came to me after I acknowledged that my purpose was greater than position and profit. I learned that if we refuse to grow weary while doing great works, we will be blessed. If we focus on the mission and our life’s calling, we will be compensated. Hold true to your purpose. Hold true to the one job you would do for free. Don’t give up before God creates a position for your purpose!

-Tunette

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” Erma Bombeck

 

 

The Sarah Miles Story: “God gave me a second chance to do what I love to do.”

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More than 5,000 miles separate Sarah Miles from the one-story home she grew up in and the three-bedroom apartment she now shares with her fellow American teammate in Forssa, Finland.

Miles moved from San Antonio, Texas to Finland in September to continue living out her dreams as a professional basketball player. The 5-foot-7 point guard, who just a year ago was in a hospital bed suiting up for knee surgery, knows she is blessed to suit up for the professional sports team FoA.

“Right now, I am just enjoying the moment and just taking every day in,” Miles said. “My career and dreams could have been over, but God gave me a second chance to do what I love to do.”

In 2011, Miles’ senior year at West Virginia University, she tore her MCL in the final game of the season against Baylor University. As the 2009 Co-Most Improved Player of the Year and the 2010 All-Big East Defensive Player of the Year fell to the ground, so did her hopes of being drafted to the WNBA.

“I knew for a fact I was going to get drafted before entering my senior year,” Miles said. “Then I got hurt and everything changed.”

While most others would have crumbled, Miles did not. After undergoing surgery in September 2011, Miles moved back to West Virginia to rehab and work on her game. For Miles, who was no stranger to hardships, a torn MCL could not compare to the obstacles she had already overcome.

Growing up, Miles’ biological father was not in her life. Instead, she was raised by her mother, Janet, grandmother, Dorothy, and her oldest brother, Lawrence.

“He was my father figure for a good while,” Miles said of her brother Lawrence, who is just seven years older than she is. “He even pointed me to basketball.”

Miles fell in love with basketball at age 7, she said.

“He (Lawrence) would go up the street from our house to play basketball on his childhood friend’s basketball goal and I would be right behind him,” she said. “I was the only girl with a group full of boys.”

A few years into elementary school, Miles got something she always wanted – a father. Her mother met and fell in love with James Lampkin Sr. Miles said Lampkin took her and Lawrence in as if they were his own. Lampkin was a supportive father, Miles said.

“He basically adopted my oldest brother and me,” she said. “He supported us in our sports and never missed an event.”

But it was only temporary. Lampkin, the only father Miles had ever known, died during her eighth-grade year of middle school. Miles, who did not want to discuss her step father’s passing, was crushed by his death.

“I just know I became angry inside after that,” she said.

Once again, Miles faced another hurdle. And once again, she jumped over it. Miles excelled in the classroom and on the basketball court at Sam Houston High School. Her summers were spent traveling and playing with Team Xpress, an AAU basketball team founded and coached by basketball-legend and Hall-of-Famer Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil.

“I made my late step father a promise to always work hard and make the best out of any situation,” Miles said.

Miles graduated from Sam Houston High School in 2007 and from West Virginia in 2011. Over her four-year career at the university, Miles averaged 8.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in communication, publication relation and entrepreneurship.

When asked what’s next for her after the season ends in Finland, Miles said, “I’m only 23, so my dream is just to play basketball for as long as I possibly can.”

 

Fun facts about Sarah Miles:

One thing you’ve had to adjust to in Finland: The food

Favorite basketball player: Chris Paul

Which player most resembles your game? Derrick Rose

Who do you credit your success to: My family (especially my brother, mother and grandmother)

 

 

 

2 Chainz meet Ryan Syrek: He ain’t never told no lie!

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Most weeks I have offered stories to inspire and encourage you. But today it’s about a challenge. Four years ago, around this same time, I made the decision not to vote. I didn’t know who to vote for and didn’t want to be guilty of voting for President Obama just because he was black. So as others rallied behind their candidate, I did nothing. I didn’t think it mattered. I was wrong. My failure to do nothing is one of the most embarrassing things of my past. If you or someone you know has thought similar to me, please encourage them to read this blog. Today is the last day to register to vote in some states and this is the last week for most other states. Visit https://www.gottaregister.com/ for more voter registration information. And best of all, if you read all of this blog, you’ll see a challenge and reward at the bottom!

Non-voting Lies and Voting Truths

By Ryan Syrek

A few months back, my father-in-law cast the deciding vote in an election. This wasn’t a “what movie should we watch” or “should we get a dog” family vote, it was a county-level position with state-wide implications. Because of one sign he saw on the way to the poll, he changed his vote; that change meant the election ended in a tie between two candidates, and the candidate he voted for won on a coin toss. Yes, a coin toss; small elections have some awesome tie-breaking rules.

Now, the point is this: I can tell you a thousand stories like this. Well, maybe not a thousand, as I would grow tired of such repetition, but I could provide at least dozens of examples of small voting blocks in local elections that changed the course of modern politics before my fingers grew tired of typing. What I couldn’t provide you, what I have never once heard, is a single good reason for not registering to vote and then actually voting. That’s because there isn’t one.

But hey, in the interest of fair play and all that, let’s consider some of the common reasons for not voting before moving into some of my favorite reasons to do just that.

Non-voting lie number one: It doesn’t really matter.

This is probably the most common reason given, and on the surface, it sounds like a good one, right? I mean, millions of people vote in a presidential election. Heck, tens of thousands vote for even little city council elections, so what does my singular individual vote mean, right? Well, it’s kind of like the number of molecules in your body or your DNA. We’re all made up of these tiny, individual components. To remove any of them would change the overall picture. The only way you get to 50 million votes is to have someone cast the first one. In other words: if EVERYONE believed this, we’d truly be governed by Clint Eastwood’s now infamous empty chair.

Non-voting lie number two: Both parties are the same or “I don’t like either of these guys and won’t vote for the lesser of two evils.”

Really? You won’t vote for the lesser of two evils. What if I told you that was exactly the same as intentionally casting a vote for evil because it pretty much is. The root of this false dilemma is the theory that in order to represent your interests best, a candidate must have every single idea that you have, agree on every single position, and basically do everything you would want, even if that is impossible according to the constitution. Have you ever dated anybody? Better yet, are you married? If you are, you stood in front of a room full of people and said, “I will always, always, always love this other person right here until I am worm food.” Does that person agree with you all the time? No? Well there you have it. If you can be in love with an imperfect person, you can embrace an imperfect candidate who largely embodies those things you wish to see represented. And both parties are not the same. Pro-life versus pro-choice; smaller government versus social programs; gay marriage versus inequality; and so on and so on. I promise you, there are enough differences if you look closely and don’t require perfection. To not do so, is to vote (by not voting) for the “bigger evil.”

Non-voting lie number three: The grab bag assortment of “I don’t have the time,” “I don’t follow politics,” and “I generally don’t care.”
If you fall into that third category, I got nothing for you. Claiming not to care about what happens to this country, about the policies that will dictate how we interact with other countries, with the planet, with each other, if you don’t care about that, there is literally nothing I can say to change your mind. It is perhaps the most deflating, horrifying comment anyone can make. It’s absolutely the same thing as saying “I am super selfish, only care about myself and my little world, and nothing else.” You’d be the villain in a very special episode of the Smurfs; you’d get a name like “The Uncaring Ooze” or something. In fact, I have no clue why you’d read this far.

But if you fall into the first category, I can tell you that you can ask for absentee ballots or see about early voting. Each state offers these, to varying degrees. That means that there is literally zero way that you can’t find the time to vote. “Ah,” you say, “but I refuse to be an ill-informed voter, and who has the time to do all that research, especially on local candidates.” Glad you asked! The League of Women Voters does! They are a bipartisan group with representation all over the place! Go to www.lwv.org and you will be able to find the info you need. It will take you all of five minutes to find out what’s up and who you agree (or disagree) with. Google is your friend too. Ask people you agree with who they are voting for, and leverage social media for information. Yes, this will take a few minutes. But if you’re on Facebook, I know you’ve taken the time to post a status about food or vacations, so you can find the time to do this. You don’t even have to wear pants.

So let’s flip the script and look at two rather unusual reasons for you to vote, as by now everyone has heard the “your vote makes a difference” stuff. Again, if you want more of the “your vote makes a difference,” I’m your man.

Reason to vote that you never hear number one: Because people don’t want you to.

Yeah, I know! This year has seen a vast outbreak of regulations designed to keep people from the polls. Even if you agree with them, it’s a sign that some people would prefer certain other people not to show up. Studies have shown time and again that this is often racially motivated, which is just about the biggest load of crap ever. But set aside partisan accusations, and you get a bigger problem: the incumbent wins whenever less people show up. That’s right! The people currently in power love it when less people turn out, as their chances skyrocket. Congress has its lowest ranking ever from the American people. On a report card, they got an F. On a scale of one to five stars, they got a black hole. On a “fill in the blank” sample, America drew a middle finger. But here’s the funny part: When asked about their SPECIFIC House or Senate representative, most people gave them good marks. Again, follow this logic: We HATE congress, but love our individual congress people. That makes not a lick of sense. What this is, more than anything, is simple name recognition and familiarity; “better the devil you know.” So when you don’t show up, the devils win. So, yeah, vote because racists don’t want you to, because certain parties prefer a smaller turnout, and because those in power stay in power even if they are doing a terrible job (hint: they are) if you don’t show up.

Reason to vote that you never hear number two: It’s all that stands between us and aristocratic rule.

It’s silly not to notice that almost every elected official who holds major office is rich. They are also overwhelmingly white and male, but let’s stay with the rich part. See, being born into wealth gives you a leg up in life and in politics. We have a “representative democracy.” That means we don’t get to vote on every bit of legislation that gets passed. We elect people who do that for us. So if we don’t vote the people who vote on the legislation, you have a bunch of rich white people without any input deciding how to run this country. In other words, you have a near monarchy or oligarchy by default. The less of us who vote, the more America simply becomes a place where the wealthy can hold whatever office they want. Sure, it’s almost that way now, but almost is a heck of a lot better than what it could be.

So don’t be frightened by the Electoral College, which is totally stupid but really affects campaign strategies more than final results. Do get yourself registered online or at your local library, post office, or DMV. Do get educated to the issues by using Google for something other than figuring out who that one guy was in that one movie that one time. Don’t believe any of the silly, fake, often mean-spirited reasons that the apathetic, self-indulgent, uninformed, or generally bad people give you for not voting. People have died for this right, which sounds like it would look great on a bumper sticker but also is the God’s honest truth. There is no better way to show you love America, to show you love your community, to show you love your family than practicing democracy in all its glory. Plus, if you go in person, you get a cool “I voted” sticker. And stickers are cool.

Ryan Syrek has been a contributing editor for The Reader (http://www.thereader.com/film) for more than a decade. He also volunteer coaches the University of Nebraska Speech Team, writes various other content, and generally can’t keep his mouth shut about politics.

BUT WAIT, IT’S NOT OVER! The first 10 people who can show proof via photo that they are registered to vote or are helping someone else register to vote will receive a free 30-minute writing session AND a discount off my book, The Other Woman (in stores this winter)! If you’re registering, please send a photo of a completed registration form. If you’re helping someone else register, please send a photo of you helping that person submit his or her information. Submit photos to info@tunettepowell.com.