It Also “Takes a Village” to Raise a Voter

I absolutely love children.  When I was a teenager, folks who knew my family assumed I would end up with a posse of them and my brother (the wild child back then) would remain the free spirit.  It didn’t end up that way and it has been quite an interesting ride. As a woman who actively chose not to have children, I’m fully content with my choice. This is the case for many of us (both men and women).  

Thankfully my brother had four, friends made me godmother of two others, and I now have 7 (soon to be 8!) great nieces and nephews. My cup runneth delightfully over. There were a number of reasons for my decision. Life as a performing artist kept me away from home quite a bit early on and, for a number of years (childbearing years), I was touring. Then one thing led to another and, well, here we are.

So why should I care about the education of other people’s children, their healthcare, or, in fact, the lot of kids?  Why should I have to pay taxes to educate them when I made a responsible decision to forgo the burdens and I have my own expenses?  Why should I be allowed an opinion on these issues at all since I’ve never had to grapple with the daily struggles, large and small, of raising a child.  As an outsider I couldn’t possibly have relevant ideas.

My question is why should I not care?  Why should I not be part of the conversation?  Why should I not be part of the efforts to raise a child?  When we see the current political and social landscape, haven’t we failed miserably in providing an environment that raises productive, healthy, loving people?  And isn’t this “why should I care” attitude precisely what’s wrong in our country today and what got us here?  This idea that if it isn’t something impacting me directly and in the immediate moment, why can’t I look the other way?

If I have a job why I can’t look the other way regarding the unemployed?

If I have healthcare why can’t I look the other way regarding the uninsured?

If I’m not gay why can’t I look the other way regarding equality?

If I’m White, why can’t I look away when an innocent Black youth is gunned down by law enforcement?

If I don’t have children who are in danger of being murdered or kidnaped by gangs in some other country I can barely remember why can’t I look the other way regarding the lives of these children?

Why?  Because history tells us we dare not.  Looking the other way gave us the Holocaust.  Looking the other way helped the development and spread of Slavery as an “industry.”

I see my great nieces and nephews and my heart is completely broken for their future right now.  We desperately need to create an environment in which children can grow, learn, and believe in what’s possible, not just for each one of them individually, but so they can also see and care about that same possibility for the little ones around them who don’t look like them, or talk like them, or eat like them, or dress like them.

How do we change this?  We need to put a kaleidoscope of brave leaders in elected office that can manifest real change.  Elections.  Voting.  Ugh, that again.  Of course, to make this all happen, people must vote.  We progressives actually have the numbers to make this happen if everyone who can vote, does vote.  But young people and minorities aren’t voting in the numbers that can help us.  Why should they when they don’t see themselves in our all-old-white-guys government?  How do we fix this? 

By shaping young brains and hearts.  Yes, I have an opinion about how we raise our children.  No, I’m not talking about walking up to a parent whose child is throwing a fit in Target with some parenting advice.  We need to sow the seeds of possibility when people are young and impressionable.  And we all need to participate.  

When I was a little girl, I always went along when my parents voted.  I loved it.  I was allowed in the voting booth but not allowed to pull the levers when they were finished.  I was told that voting was a grownup privilege and that one day I’d get to do it.  It was magic for me.  I couldn’t wait until I could do it.  

Somehow, we must find a way to make voting magic for every child; every race, ethnicity, and gender identity, whether they currently see themselves sitting at the political table or not.  We need to target the young ones in little moments that always present themselves that we fail to see … in ways that can involve every single one of us.  We’re right back at that Village it takes.  We’re at a moment where we have to try anything and everything.  

A couple of months ago I met a woman on the subway who was 102.  She had just finished taking in a matinee at Carnegie Hall and was on her way home … all by herself!  We chatted in a surprisingly intimate way about life and I learned things from her I’ll never forget and will remain vivid to me until the day I die.

Each of us can do tiny things to impact burgeoning minds.  Have you heard of where they “connect the public to public schools” all over the country?  You don’t need to stand up or donate more than a few dollars to impact children.  Look through the website, find a school with a teacher looking for funds for something important.  How about breakfast for hungry little ones?  It’s hard to foster belief in what’s possible when your belly is hungry!  Or Google “voting museums for children near me” and take a child for a special adventure with you (giving parents a break in the bargain).  Kids love museums!  

Be vigilant about countless moments where an opportunity presents to change a young mind.  A child sitting next to you on the train, or at a ballgame, in line for ice cream.  What if every single one of us took the lead from that 102-year old woman: there is always a chance to change a mind on one small topic in the time it takes for the train to arrive.  

I know there are countless teachers and parents out there beating the drum of voting, but clearly, it’s not enough. The message misses too many. So many more of us can join this army- people like me, who never had children or whose children are grown and away.  Be alert.  Find those moments.  Do not look away.

Then, maybe … just maybe, grain of sand by grain of sand, we can build and arrive at that mountaintop the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King promised us far too many years ago. Now more than ever, none of us can look the other way, or when we look back, we will see that this government of the people, by the people, for the people has, indeed, perished from the earth.

Let’s all work to make voting magic for our children.  

Top photo: From left to right: Matthew Krauz (nephew), Dalia Krauz, Laurie Krauz, Yael Krauz, Duncan Bonney, Stephany Bonney (niece), Fletcher Bonney, Eliana Krauz, Naama Krauz (Matthew’s wife), Leandra Bonney

Laurie Krauz is an award-winning, Bronx born and bred, jazz vocalist living in Manhattan.  Named one of the top 500 jazz vocalists of all time in a book by noted jazz critic Scott Yanow, this voting Grammy member has also been coaching non-performers in the art of Public Speaking for several decades. She’s a lifelong Democrat.