Asante Blackk, 19, on Voting for the First Time: 'My Generation Is a Very Capable Generation'
The When They See Us star cast his first vote in what he describes as one of history's "most important elections"
Speaking to PEOPLE ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, the 19-year-old actor revealed that he had already cast his ballot in what he describes as one of the "most important elections in a lot of people's lifetimes."
"I mean, it's definitely the most important election of my lifetime, considering I haven't been alive that long," the When They See Us star joked. "I got out, I cast my ballot and I voted early on."
Blackk also noted that he encouraged his friends and family members to vote as well.
"I feel like Gen Z, my generation, is a very capable generation, you know? We see a lot more than people realize and we are working to change a lot more than people realize," he added. "It's very important to us."
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With the election well underway, many are curious to see how the results — which could take time to be revealed — will affect the future of the nation.
"The country is the most divided [it has been in a] really long time," Blackk said. "We haven't seen this at all, where people are so divided on these issues."
Still, he stressed the importance of using one's voice. "A lot of times we feel like we don't have the power to change anything in this country, but that feeling is what really stops us from having the power," he said. "They want us to feel that we are powerless so that we don't use the power we have."
The actor said his own passion for speaking out comes from his experiences growing up as a young Black man. "My entire life has been politicized because of the fact that I'm Black. That's just the way it works in this country," he said. "Unfortunately, it's all about politics."
"It always surprises me when people say, 'Oh, I'm not into politics,' or, 'I don't really like to get into those things,'" continued the This Is Us star. "Politics isn't this fancy thing, it's really just your livelihood. It's really how you live your life from day to day, what your experiences are, what you want to change in your own life and what you don't like that the current government is doing. That's really what it is."
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Despite his inspiring political efforts, Blackk is also aware of the criticism that comes from older generations, whom he said might consider younger voters as not having enough "life experience."
"But all we need to know is our experience," he explained. "Because in order for us to change something, we have to know something about what we don't like."
Noting that he and his peers are aware of issues surrounding topics such as healthcare and race, Blackk said, "It's not like we're in a shelter and we don't see these things."
"We see these things, we feel these things, we hear these things and that's why we try to push back and fight as much as we can," he continued. "I feel like it would almost be stupid of us to sit on the sidelines and act like we don't see it when we do."
Earlier this year, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Blackk teamed up with his two friends — Ethan Herisse and Reed Shannon — to craft a YouTube series. Titled Speak Up Series, the videos the three friends shared on the channel touched upon how racism impacts young adults, a subject matter they were inspired to explore after George Floyd's death in May.
"We were all feeling very heartbroken, very sad, very angry, and we kind of just hopped on the cause that just started with the three of us," he said. "We were just talking about our feelings."
As for his advice for other young people who may want to spark and inspire change? "Start small and start with someone you trust," Blackk said.
"Find somebody else that you trust and expand upon it. And as you guys get passionate enough about it, maybe you figure out, 'Okay, how do we take this from being just a conversation between us and make people hear us?'" he advised. "It's really just taking those baby steps and figuring out what works for you, and then you'll figure out something that works for everybody."
Election Day has arrived — click here for information on how you can still vote across the country.
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