Members of the Crime Scene Unit walk near the location of a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Philadelphia Shooting
Members of the Crime Scene Unit walk near the location of a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

I have been living in West Philadelphia on and off again since I was 13 years old, and these neighborhood streets don’t feel the same anymore. There used to be a time when doors were left unlocked, people napped on their porches, and kids played in the streets with their neighbors. Today, parents are too scared to let their kids out because we keep hearing about another shooting down the street or a break-in next door. This is exhausting, and as a single mother, I’m tired of this being our new normal. That’s why I am planning on voting in the upcoming midterm elections in November.

To be transparent, this will be my first time voting for Governor here in Pennsylvania. For a while, I was like many other voters who traditionally just went to the voting box for the Presidential election. However, after learning that the Republican party has nominated the most extreme and dangerous candidates, I’m doing more than just voting. I’m knocking on doors and warning my fellow neighbors about what’s at stake in this upcoming election. 

I have been empowered to become involved and talk to others about the issues that matter to me after joining my union, SEIU Local 32BJ. Being a part of my union has taught me that real power comes from joining together to demand better from our elected officials. 

After knocking on doors the last couple of months, I’ve learned that it’s not just me who’s out here struggling, scared to be outside, or worried about my kids’ safety. I have also learned that many of my neighbors have been struggling financially. I’m not the only single mother who can’t afford to rent more than a single bedroom that I share with my two kids. Life in West Philadelphia is simply not the same as before, and I relate to so many people whose doors I’ve been knocking on and getting to know recently. That is why I believe that if we all get out and vote on the issues that matter to us, we can make real change.

Our struggle is not surprising with the current Republicans we have in the state capitol. The Republican candidate for Governor, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, has led efforts to deny workers, like me, basic protections at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I worked as a security guard throughout the pandemic without any hazard pay, sick pay, and no recognition of my essential work for the economy. Republicans like Mastriano continue voting to keep our minimum wage at an unlivable and unsustainable $7.25 an hour. He’s why so many of us can’t afford more than one bedroom in the city many of us have lived in for generations. 

It is important to elect candidates with holistic plans for our great state of Pennsylvania. We must support leaders who prioritize issues such as the economy, jobs, wages, health care, and education. Elections have consequences and it is important to understand how our votes today will impact our children’s futures. 

Josh Shapiro is fighting for us, the essential workers and the union members. He has a proven record of supporting us all. Before I started knocking on doors, I did my own research and found that Josh Shapiro has held companies in Pennsylvania accountable when they take advantage of their workers. He’s prosecuted companies and won more than $20 million in restitution for Pennsylvania workers. We need him in office to protect every worker in this commonwealth. I know that the Democratic candidates we have for the midterm elections in November will protect all essential workers.

To the people who also only vote in every Presidential election, it is your responsibility to vote this November. Voting allows us to have a voice about the issues that impact us the most. If you think your vote doesn’t matter, I encourage you to reflect on the state of the world today. We cannot continue to live this way. Our frustrations must motivate us to elect leaders who will rebuild the state of Pennsylvania. If you want to see real change and protect what matters to you, make your voice heard. Create a plan to vote and encourage others to as well.   

Let’s take back our neighborhoods by electing candidates that will fight, protect, and provide us with the resources we need to live and work with living wages, dignity, and respect.

Karentha Thorpe is a West Philadelphia resident and a member of SEIU Local 32BJ.