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"Voting is how we shape the future. If you're interested at all in what tomorrow should look like, vote."

Mike Robinson – Writer, Illustrator, Sculptor

Mike Robinson considers himself an ‘imagesmith’ and a storyteller regardless of the medium. Hailing from Jamaica, he has received national and regional awards for his work as a sculptor and as a writer.  As a visual artist, he has provided illustrations for numerous publications including the critically acclaimed “Little Lion” series. He currently serves as the Creative Director of his own multi-platform storytelling studio, Ovaso LLC.

Q&A

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

To tell you the truth, I’ve never voted before this year. I never really felt like it mattered. It always kinda seemed like my life was so far away from whatever was happening in Washington DC and I just figured whoever wins I’ll just keeping doing what I do while the politicians do their thing. Then the 2016 election woke me up in a big way. When I saw that less than 19% of the population chose the president and that more people voted for the other candidate – who still lost! – I started to pay attention.

 

The right to vote is no joke. It’s our ability to choose our own future. A lot of people fought and gave their lives for us to be able to do it. They knew the importance of it. And the people who gerrymander and intimidate and try all kinds of tricks to stop people from voting – they know the importance of it too.

 

We’re at a crucial juncture, where America needs to decide who we are as a people. I’d say that’s critical.

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

The stakes are higher than any stakes I’ve ever seen. I suppose the stakes might have been higher during the fight for independence or the civil war, but I wasn’t around for those. We’re looking at a choice between being led by science or by bullsh*t; between tolerance and actual violence; between women making choices for themselves or some twisted version of the handmaid’s tale. For many of us, we’re
literally facing a choice between life or death. I’d say that qualifies as ‘particularly high’.

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

Yes, very vividly. It was this year! I voted in the primaries and in local government elections. It felt very empowering. I’ve really started learning how government works and staying abreast of what our officials are up to. Makes me feel like a real citizen.

 

I still have moments when I see that a candidate won by 50,000 votes and hear a small voice saying it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t voted. But that voice is getting smaller each time I vote. I think my vote means more than that. I think we inspire each other and me voting could have resulted in 3 or 4 other people voting, and each of them could have inspired a few people. That gets to be a big number very quickly.

What do you say to people who say, the system is rigged, our vote won’t matter?
I say it’s true. There are people out there actively rigging as we speak. There’s some wholesale rigging afoot, with the postal service being messed with, and judges being placed with intent and with all the redistricting. But, as Barack says, the only real cure for that is to come out and vote in overwhelming numbers. That’s the way to beat the rigging. Only 58% of eligible voters voted in 2016. So I say it’s more important to get that number closer to 100% before we worry about the system being rigged.
What do you think artists can do to inspire others to do their civic duty and vote?

The artist’s role is to be a catalyst for the community, whether that community is his block or the whole world. As artists, we have the unique ability to connect and communicate with people in an emotional way. Emotions are a powerful motivator. I think, as artists, we need to reach inside and find that seed people will connect with and bring it out into the world. If we understand our civic duty and its importance for the country, and we vote, then we just need to express that as much as we can in any way we can and it will inspire others.

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!

Support the Artist

To learn more about Michael C. Robinson, follow his rising star or visit his storytelling studio

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.