Black Women in Harlem Share Their Get-Out-and-Vote Motivations

Bill de Blasio’s “Tale of Two Cities” campaign theme about the income and opportunities gap between New York City’s rich and poor resonated with Harlem’s black female voters, who came to the polls on Nov. 5 to elect the city’s new mayor.

“I’m concerned about affordable housing and the poor,” said Karen Cockerham, a life-long Harlem resident in her mid ‘60s. “[Mayor Michael] Bloomberg set up the city so it’s harder and harder for poor people to live here,” she said after voting at the W. 134th Street polling location.

At the W. 125th Street polls, Tracy Smith shared a similar sentiment. “Affordable housing is very important,” the cosmetologist and retail worker explained. Smith herself is planning to move out of the city where she has lived all her 54 years, in favor of less pricey housing options in Maryland. Despite her impending relocation, Smith was still motivated to vote for the community she’ll be leaving behind. “I care while I’m here!” she said.

Despite low voter turnout, exit polls show that of those who did make it out to vote, black women came out in strong support for De Blasio. The first Democrat to be elected mayor of the city in over 20 years, the New York City Public Advocate defeated former Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman and former deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani, Joseph Lhota, by a nearly 50 percent margin, according to the Associated Press. De Blasio, earned 96 percent of black women’s votes, according to exit polling conducted by Edison Research of Somerville, N.J. via the New York Times. Black women’s support for De Blasio was already evident in September’s Democratic mayoral primary. Then, he won 47 percent of the black female vote in a nine-way race, the largest show of support he received from any group.

For others, Election Day was about exercising their Constitutional right to vote. “I just became a citizen,” said Jamaican immigrant Sophia Brown. “After being in this country for so long, I wanted to express my right to vote.”

See how black women of Harlem described their get-out-and-vote motivations in their own words in the slideshow below.

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