Mandela Barnes

Earlier this week, Newaukee and Bridge the City Podcast came together to host a Political Open Mic.

Going beyond what is considered the norm in politics, this open mic was a non-partisan event that allowed audience members to share their thoughts on solutions to the challenges our communities face when it comes to topics such as voting.

Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes kicked the night off by talking directly to the youth in the room. According to Barnes, eligible voters who are 40 and under are the most untapped voting block this country has.

He said it’s important to not only pay attention to the primaries but also local elections.

“They matter and have real consequences,” said Barnes.

He added that local elections effect individuals more directly than the presidential elections. During local elections, people are given the power to put people in office who will directly affect their everyday lives, such as the next mayor.

The next local elections will be held in February 2020 and events like this open mic are pushing to get a higher voter turnout compared to 2016.

BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing Communities) was founded directly as a result of the voter turnout in 2016. The goal of BLOC is to get Black and brown communities involved not only with just voting, but engaged in their communities so much that they can’t be ignored.

Instead of only canvassing right before elections, BLOC is committed to knocking on doors all-year round to make sure Milwaukee residents are being heard, specifically in Black and brown communities.

Angela Lang, executive director of BLOC, said we need to expand our idea of what civic engagement is.

She said you have to ask the question, “what does it look like to talk to people who aren’t talked to?” The neighborhoods BLOC focuses on are the same neighborhoods that are often overlooked by elected officials and others in power.

“This political system is not meant for me to participate in,” said Lang of why it’s even more important that we exercise our right to vote.

To find out when your next local elections are, visit