(THE DAILY BEAST)
By Joshua DuBois
For many African Americans, this is shaping up to be the Ferguson Election.
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Around the country, black voters are being mobilized to vote in the 2014 midterms with the argument that the death of Michael Brown resulted, in part, from lack of black civic participation. While the population of Ferguson is nearly 70 percent African American, only 6 percent cast a ballot in the last municipal elections. This led to a majority-black city where the mayor and five of six city councilpersons are white—and a police force that many see as rejecting standards of community policing and ignoring concerns of black residents. As the argument goes, Michael Brown may have been felled by a bullet in August, but the context around his death was created at the ballot box the year before.
In response, political parties, advocacy groups, and prominent spokespeople are pointing to the crisis in Ferguson to motivate blacks to go to the polls, often in striking ways. The Dream Defenders—a Florida-based organization of young activists formed in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death—has gone viral with its "Vest or Vote" campaign, anchored by a powerful tongue-in-cheek video which presents a stark choice between dressing black children in bulletproof vests before they head to school, or voting in the midterms. The video is accompanied by a photograph of a young black girl wrapped tightly in Kevlar, and a pledge card asking people to vote.