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"It's not a perfect system, but if it didn't matter, people wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop you. Your vote matters."

Isa J. Miles – Actress, Director

Isa J. Miles is the consummate multi-hyphenate. The theater and film actress and soon- to-be-director has starred in some of the city’s most notable theatrical productions. These include the role of Gwen in New African Grove’s production of “A Song for Coretta”, numerous productions with Atlanta’s Alliance Theater’s Education Department and the lead in Marietta’s New Theater in the Square’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun”, a role for which she was nominated for a 2020 Taurean Award for Best Supporting Actress. Isa hails from SW Atlanta and is a graduate of Benjamin E. Mays High School, Howard University and Harvard University School of Public Health. When not on stage, she is a communicator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up next, whenever COVID-19 allows for a safe return to the stage, Isa can be seen in New African Grove’s production of “The Coping Mechanism” and is looking forward to making her directorial debut during the Etheridge Arts Ensemble’s upcoming season.

Q&A

Why is it critical that we use our right to vote?

There are lots of reasons to vote. I have two amazing young Black boys who will one day be Black men and I certainly want a future for them that isn’t what we are experiencing at this moment. As a parent there is that heavy weight of knowing more about the world outside than your children do and wanting to protect their innocence for as long as you possibly can.

 

Everything in me hates this idea that one day I have to put a weight on my kids’ shoulders that they shouldn’t have to carry. I carry this weight as a black woman, my husband carries his own weight as a black man in this country. So for me there is so much on the line just in terms of building a future and a world where they can see goodness again, where we don’t put people in positions of leadership who lie and who do all the things you try to teach your kids not to do. And they see it and breathe it every day. It’s in the way we interact with people now. I just really want to get back to a place where people are kind and we’re trying to get back to our best ideal.

In your opinion, are the stakes particularly high for this election? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Absolutely – because I think there are a lot of things that are imperfect about our nation. But I think the ideals of our nation and just our very humanity is at stake right now. This is a moment that is going to go down in the history books no matter what. We can either come out of this on the right side of history or the wrong side.
 
We’ve seen what the wrong side looks. We’ve seen what it looks like when we lead with evil rather than with compassion and caring and really thinking about and pulling for everyone. For the first time in as long as I can remember, it just feels so different – you can feel it in the air. It feels like we are definitely not united as the United States. Maybe we never were – but I feel that we definitely find ourselves at a serious crossroads of who we want to be in our own house in this country and [who we want to be] for the rest of the world. Because the world is watching – and we haven’t put out a very good picture.
 

This is the chance to say it louder – no, this is not what we as the citizens of this country have chosen. We want something different. We want our voices to be heard. And the way we do that is to come out in mass. Everyone has to come out – saying, “Here’s my vote!”

Do you remember the first time you voted? Tell us about it?

I was in Washington D.C. and I was a freshman in college. I voted for Bill Clinton and it felt great. I remember feeling very important and powerful and like I did my civic duty and I was a part of choosing what would happen to the future. I felt like a real adult. To me that was part of what being an adult was – being a part of a larger society and having a say.

What do you say to people who say, the system is rigged, our vote won’t matter?

I’m going to paraphrase something I saw on social media today. It was a clip from Blackish. Anthony Anderson’s character is talking to Junior and he says, “There are so many people right now working so hard to make sure we can’t vote. They would not be doing that if our vote didn’t actually count.” There would be no Russian interference if our vote didn’t actually count. There would be no money being poured into smear campaigns and ad campaigns, if it didn’t matter. There would be none of this consistent messaging that it doesn’t matter, if it in fact didn’t matter. It is not a perfect system -but people wouldn’t be trying to stop you if it didn’t matter. Your vote matters.

What do you think artists can do to inspire others to do their civic duty and vote?

I think for those of us who have platforms using your platform to speak your truth is truly powerful. I so admire artists who go out on a limb and speak their truth and say, “I stand for something,” rather than saying, “I’m just an artist I’m not a politician.” But also so many artists have used their art, their actual creative outlets to take a stand. I’m thinking for example of the last two plays I was in and the one that I’ll be directing – these are the works of creatives who, like so many other artists, who tackled real issues that affect us all but who integrated those issues within entertaining pieces of art.
 
Your art can be whatever you want it to be – it has to be true to you. But there is also an opportunity to create something that lives on forever that people can refer back to when, either individually, or as a community, we find ourselves in need of inspiration. I think that’s something that all art can do and should aspire to do.

Want to get involved?

As part of our We Got NEXT! Vote 2020 initiative, NEXT-Atlanta has partnered with local civic organization BTheNow to support their digital campaign to equip voters with the information they need to ensure everyone’s voice is heard this election!  Visit  their website here to check your registration status, request an absentee ballot, volunteer, or download the voting toolkit.

Want to spread the word? Be sure to check out the NEXT social media Get Out the Vote library featuring empowering messages and images from several Atlanta artists — and share far and wide! This election is all about you! Use your vote and use your voice!

Want to get involved?

You can visit BTheNow.org to check your registration status, request an absentee ballot, volunteer on or before election day, or download their voting toolkit. 

Want to spread the word? Be sure to check out the NEXT social media Get Out the Vote library featuring empowering messages and images from several Atlanta artists — and share far and wide! This election is all about you! Use your vote and use your voice!

At NEXT, we are about more than art for art’s sake. At NEXT, we believe that together we can use our individual creative expression to find solutions to our community’s intractable social challenges. Through our talents and our passion, NEXT unleashes the potential of creative communities in order to inspire countless others who share our vision to get involved.

Okorie Johnson

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