National HBCU voting summit stresses importance of youth turnout

The event honored the legacy of late Congressman John Lewis, civil rights champion and voting rights advocate

Fayetteville State University students get off a Black Votes Matter bus at Smith Recreation Center on March 3, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

On September 10 and 11, this historic summit, for the first time, brought together over 40 HBCUs from around the country to chart a way forward in preparation for the upcoming election and future elections to come. This virtual event honored the legacy of late Congressman John Lewis, civil rights champion and voting rights advocate.

HBCUs are critical anchor institutions for engaging not only Black students, but also the wider communities where they are located. This summit is a critical opportunity to engage a voting bloc that can have an enormous impact on the outcome of the upcoming election.

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As we continue to witness more and more schemes aimed at disenfranchising college students, particularly Black students, this summit is focused on informing, preparing, and equipping students with the tools they need to exercise their constitutional right to vote. 

The summit was hosted by Alabama A&M University and, for the first time, brought together HBCUs from around the country to plan for an election and prepare students to vote in 2020 and in the future.

African-American college students theGrio.com
Spelman College (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)

“Ensuring that young people of color have full and equal access to the ballot box is crucial, especially in light of the widespread voter suppression efforts taking place across the country,” said Alexandria Harris, Esq., Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

This summit comes at a flashpoint in our history following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Young Americans, many of whom are college students, are taking to the streets to demand justice and equality. 

Concurrently, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the Black community exposing the widespread nature of systemic inequality. And within this context, we’re battling voter suppression efforts aimed at maintaining the status quo. This summit was part of the ongoing fight for racial justice and equity through education, advocacy, and preparing students to vote.

Blatant voter suppression efforts from local and state governments have dramatically increased the past few years and disproportionately targeted people of color and students, who are historically targets of voter suppression. Educating these students on how to navigate these barriers is the most potent way of fighting back. 

The event was co-hosted by The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition and by Alabama A&M University.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. 

The Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program partners with America’s colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. 

AGF has chapters at many HBCUs across the country, and the summit was an extension of their commitment to creating infrastructure to help support HBCUs and their students participate in our democracy. 

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The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old Freedom Summer volunteer, and champion of equality and voting rights who, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, was murdered by the KKK in 1964 while registering Black Americans to vote in Mississippi. The story of these three young men struck a public chord that galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If you would like to get involved, please contact The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project or the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, political editor at The Grio, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC. You can find her at @Dr_CMGreer on Twitter.

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