Camden; New Jersey — I have attended the Winslow Township School District all of my life. My community, Winslow Township in Camden County, New Jersey, is a good example of what our nation should look like with a great blend of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds.
African Americans and Hispanics are the most populated minority groups in my township. Many citizens who live on the rural side have resided in this township for generations. Our community thrives on its diversity.
My newly adopted role as a member of the NAACP Camden County East Youth Council readied me for an opportunity to join community voices in testifying before the New Jersey Apportionment Commission ahead of their decision to certify a State Legislative Map. I hoped that my testimony would compel the Commission to position fair and accurate representation for communities of color at the forefront of their efforts to certify a map. I also hoped that after hearing the testimonies of organizers, activists, and community voices, the Commission would keep communities like mine together and ensure that minority voting power was strengthened to reflect our growing presence in the state.
Much like my community, many neighboring cities are equally composed of communities of color that make up nearly half or more than half of the population. These communities are vibrant and growing, reflecting the trajectory happening not only in my home state of New Jersey, but more broadly across the country.
Since 2010, communities of color have grown by more than a million in America. This population boom is expected to continue as communities of color are likely to evolve into the “new majority” well before the next census in 2030.
While America is starting to age, Gen Z are evolving into one of the nation’s most influential voting blocs and political demographics. Heavily influenced by the recent events of the pandemic, racial and social justice accountability, and other global news, many young people are leaving their impact and finding their voice, footing, and purpose. Whether social, political, or environmental, my generation is the next generation of activists, organizers, and community voices advocating for underserved communities, and rallying together for their voices and communities to be acknowledged.
Throughout the nation, states like Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas have failed to accurately reflect communities of color which have landed them legal battles that could impact representation for communities of color but also set precedents for future redistricting processes which directly impact our ability to accrue power in our own communities.
Echoing decade-long sentiments of overlooked communities, I too want my voice and the voice of others to be fairly considered. Furthermore, I want my community and communities alike to have their voices and interests translated into policy. Gen Z is in a pivotal position to usher in a new guard of policies, practices, and participation that will shape a country that is aligned with our changing values and demographics.
Over the next decade, young people and people of color will be the majority. However, we will not be idle and wait until then to be active participants in democracy.
The redistricting process of today will have a significant bearing on local funding, resources, and political stalk holds within these states. With this in mind, current laws and policies must consider and reflect future generations in the decision-making process. Recognized as a dominant voting bloc, lawmakers are steadily carving and suppressing this growing demographic for political benefit rather than the well-being and interest of the people who live within the district lines.
By the next redistricting cycle, I hope the Apportionment Commission considers keeping all communities like mine together and actively works to elevate minority voting power. Our voting bloc is growing, and rather than undermining this inevitable growth, legislators should seek to uplift, support, and acknowledge the influential capabilities of our voting bloc.