Our Values, Our Voice, Our Vote

I’m Virgie Rollins, the Chair of the DNC’s Black Caucus. As we kick off and celebrate Black History Month, we Democrats have so much to be proud of, and so much work left to do. That’s why throughout the month of February, we will be featuring various elected officials and leaders in our party from across the country, telling all of you about “Our Values, Our Voice, and Our Vote.”

Our Values

The Democratic Party believes that every American, regardless of where you were born or what you look like, deserves access to a quality education, affordable health care, to earn a living wage, to get a little help from your neighbors when you need it.

Democrats are committed to making sure all children regardless of income have the opportunity to get a first-rate education. That’s why President Obama and Democrats support expanding programs like Head Start, since studies show early childhood education is critical to future success. And that’s also why President Obama and Democrats have promoted initiatives like Race to the Top to reward schools for innovation and partnered with schools that need assistance to improve.

Many African Americans are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, and unemployment in communities of color is disproportionately higher than the national average. President Obama has exhibited true leadership by calling on governors and businesses across the country to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which economists say will lift millions of Americans out of poverty – with African Americans standing to benefit.

Under the Affordable Care Act, 9 million Americans have already enrolled to receive health insurance coverage through private insurers via the health care exchanges, through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or through the expansion of Medicaid. But millions more stand to benefit if Republican governors holding out would accept the federal dollars to help those in their states who need it most. 7.3 million African Americans already have access to benefits through the no cost-sharing feature of ACA, and free preventative screenings and procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

And while Republicans in Congress allowed federal unemployment benefits to expire, President Obama is taking action to help the long-term unemployed through partnerships with more than 300 companies and special job training.

It is clear that Democrats truly value economic opportunity for all.

Our Voice

Democrats have shown the true diversity of our party and made phenomenal strides over the past several years, namely with the election of President Barack Obama. From Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the first black chief executive of that Commonwealth, or Senator Cory Booker, the first African American New Jerseyans have sent to represent them in the U.S. Senate, in all 50 states, there are examples of progress and pride for us all. You will hear from many of them this month.

Our Vote

Although the Voting Rights Act was weakened by last year’s Supreme Court decision, we remain steadfast in our resolve to protect and expand access to the ballot box for every American. Unfortunately, GOP legislatures and governors in states like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina have engaged in a cynical campaign to make voting harder, which just isn’t right. New voting restrictions and identification requirements have imposed unnecessary burdens on low-income, African American, and Latino voters, but Democrats are fighting back.

So join us as we reflect on the many accomplishments and diversity of our party this month, and as we look to the important elections ahead of us this fall to keep moving the country forward. Each day in February, we will provide new graphics, videos, or blogs for you to share with social networks and your family and friends. We hope that you do – we’ve got work to do!

Virgie Rollins is a small business owner and the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus. She is a native of Michigan and lives in Detroit.

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