As November 3rd approaches, more than 60 million voters have already cast their ballots in the 2020 general election - nearly 50% of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election - more than a third of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election - signaling that this election will bring out record numbers of voters and establishing it as one of the most historical elections of our time. And for many Americans, the 2020 election is the first time they have weighed into politics and are giving voice to what matters to them when it comes to electing the leaders they want to represent them in public office. But for Black women, this level of political engagement is not new. We need to only look back to 2016 and the last presidential election to be reminded that Black women have always had a clear understanding of what is at stake for us and our communities and that our vote is one of the primary ways we ensure our safety and sustainability in this country.

In 2016, against the backdrop of the 8 year Obama Administration and the advancements in educational attainment for Black students, civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, and equity for women and girls of color - Black women voted in overwhelming numbers and across the nation for progressive candidates. It was not that Black women agreed 100% with the candidates or even on all the issues, but the 94% who voted as a collective unit realized that the only way to build on what we had accomplished up to that point was to raise our voices and to vote.

We knew then what the rest of America is now learning; that not showing up to the polls and refusing to vote would create the space and fertile conditions for white supremacy, bigotry and other forms of oppression to take root. Now, four years later, we have not only seen these ills grow, but they are thriving. And once again, Black women are in position as the moral compass of America - attempting to point voters in the right direction. For generations dating back to before Black people had the right to vote in this country, Black women have proven that when we become civically engaged, we organize our entire communities and the impact is felt well beyond us. Whether it is with our sorority sisters, our faith community, our families or our colleagues; we make sure that everyone is voting. But this election is too important to leave the burden of protecting our democracy solely on Black women. In order to rebuild America better than she was before, we need everyone to follow our lead and do everything they can to get out the vote.

While significant for many reasons; the presence of a global pandemic, continued racial injustice and unrest, and a flailing economy; the 2020 election is also pivotal in that it provides an opportunity for America to finally recognize and honor the leadership of Black women. The current state of our nation is calling all who believe in freedom and justice to the front lines and all who believe in democracy to defend her. To embrace the fierce urgency of this moment is to listen to Black women and to trust our voices. While Black women are not a monolith, we have routinely demonstrated that when we unite, we have the unique power and ability to create seismic shifts in society. Unity is what is desperately needed to change the energy of this country and Black women are the example to follow.

Nakisha M. Lewis is a Black lesbian feminist, impact strategist, and lifelong advocate for racial, gender, and LGBTQ justice and equity.

She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and PowerRising