Right now—in the midst of closing out our March issue—your ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide team is working feverishly on another monster ballot for the March 23 election, against ever-growing political headwinds in Louisiana. As we state at the top of each edition, these guides (in different forms) have been lovingly published since 2014. I’ll take you back to that time.

Picture it: a certain Lower Garden District deli, early 2016. It was the eve of a local election, and over lunch I had once again turned to the “Anti-Oppression / Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide” that a team of intrepid harm reductionists from our friends in Trystereo had been putting together for a couple years and posting to a blog. I admired their approach to break down confusing language and, as advertised, cut through the bullshit, concluding (most of the time) with a recommendation one way or the other. One reason I sought this guide out was because I wasn’t seeing anything like it anywhere else in the New Orleans media landscape. Information on candidates and ballot measures was not easy to find, especially for down-ballot races. It didn’t hurt that I felt aligned with these writers’ unapologetic and unequivocal opposition to the Drug War, as well as their compassion for and prioritization of the “people most harmed by systemic oppression.”

Well, I thought it would be a natural fit for the magazine: a useful resource not found anywhere else that was written by activists working street-level to make people’s lives better, composed with purpose and even a little gallows humor. So we started working with Trystereo and published the first few guides via versions entirely written by them (as the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network), then entered a hybrid era where the two entities shared research and writing duties. Eventually, with Trystereo’s blessing, the guide was helmed entirely in-house, and now you know it simply as the ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide. I’m forever grateful to Trystereo and those writers who got the ball rolling.

Through the years this guide has been a rollercoaster, at times hilarious (from the first AG edition, for the October 2016 race: “Don’t let people shame you into voting for Hillary just because she has lady parts. I tried voting with my vagina one time, and they threw me out of the polling location.”); and at times disastrous, but always evolving along the way. Through it all it’s gained a weird kind of momentum and has become, quite to my surprise, a bit of a phenomenon.

It has been of great comfort and encouragement to see the overwhelmingly positive response, election after election, of gratitude and appreciation from our readership, whether through viral social engagement or just the anecdotal kudos at tabling events. After all, these guides are not easy to put together: It’s the research equivalent of diving headfirst into a parade route Port-O-Let. So the encouragement helps, especially after tough losses—which is admittedly most of the time. Eight years into these guides and Louisiana’s political environment is fast catching up to its disaster-decimated natural one. Our state government is legislating to starve, imprison, and murder people with express impunity, whether through state-sponsored execution or just letting the general public gun each other down in the streets. It’s a grim state of affairs, yet there’s lots of work to be done to push back.

Which is why I try to be a chronic voter. For me, it’s a discipline of always showing up no matter how inconsequential or minor league the candidates or ballot items seem. To be honest, I’m not always sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s growing up in a family that takes this civic duty seriously. Maybe it’s because people have struggled and died for this right. Maybe it’s the feeling that, as we stated in one guide, “today’s longshot could be tomorrow’s frontrunner” and you have to try and fix small problems before they become big ones. Maybe it’s knowing that my political adversaries—those who are advancing a punitive, misogynist, white supremacist, fundamentalist Christian ethnostate—are quite disciplined themselves when it comes to turning out, and their representation at the polls must be challenged by greater numbers. Maybe it’s naïveté.

But I’m not going to be the one who insists you vote. I can’t really blame anyone for not feeling compelled to participate or be invested in the process, or for feeling ignored and abandoned no matter who wins an election. That’s the system’s fault, not ours. And there are many, many other ways to contribute to the betterment of your community or have your voice heard. As the old adage goes: You don’t have to do everything, you just have to do something. —Dan Fox

Illustration by Laura Frizzell

Front and back covers: Portrait of a young girl by Monica Rose Kelly (front); Anika Binalla as painted by Sasha Swan (back), both features of the “Gumbo Botanica” mural at 1101 Elysian Fields Ave. Photos by Tammie Quintana

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