News | February 14th, 2020
‘African Americans and the Vote’: FAMU’s Black History Month Town Hall Discussion
By: Amiya Abner
Befitting to the celebration of Black History Month, Thursday, February 13th in Lee Hall Auditorium, Florida A&M University (FAMU) hosted the #ForTheCulture Black History Month Town Hall event to initiate the conversation on ‘African Americans and the Vote.’
FAMU’s president, Larry Robinson, opened up the town hall meeting with a brief message discussing the importance of having the privilege to vote as African Americans in today’s society and how imperative it is for our communities to register to vote. He concluded with the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We must remember that intelligence is not enough, intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.”
He continued to say, “this morning you are going to hear from very intelligent people who also have character and hopefully you will hear this message and it will inspire you to touch others and get them involved in the movement that really has never stopped.”
The next speaker the audience heard from was the Mistress of Ceremony and moderator Carmen Cummings Martin, who serves as the Assistant Vice President of Alumni Affairs and University Engagement Office of Alumni Affairs.
“Our goal here today is to download some good information, parts of knowledge, that may be helpful in your efforts to navigate some goals in the very near future,” Martin said. “Your decisions to vote or not to vote, can profoundly change the facets of our governing bodies and your decisions can impact your house, your decisions can impact this academic house and your decisions very well impact another house with the address 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
After expounding on the purpose of the Town Hall Meeting, Martin introduces the distinct panel of leaders whose political and academic expertise, as well as community involvement, created an intellectual dialogue throughout the event. Students, faculty, and staff were able to hear from the NAACP Youth and College Division Director Tiffany Loftin, Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, and the university history department’s very own, Kimberly Brown Pellum, Ph.D., John Warford, Ph.D., and Darius Young, Ph.D.
Loftin spoke on the first question proposed by the audience: Do you feel there is still a need to have a separate month to focus on the historic accomplishments of African Americans and what are some implications of the era of Trump on the lives and future of African Americans?
“In the national narrative to uphold the pillars of white supremacy part of the confusion that needs to be continued is we are a minority,” Loftin said. “I don’t really think black people are a minority but according to the census, we are. I notice that all the celebratory months whether it is based on community and identity or whether it is based on issue, those are things that I feel like this country has dedicated to months as a way to marginalize black being a majority when I think that are things that should be brought to the center of our conversations when we talk about intersectionality.”
Often times, organizations are being established to venture out to HBCUs and low-income areas around the country to essentially pander the African American and minority vote. This is their most effective way to gain representation for those large numbers of people who may not vote for their candidates, but still attend their candidates’ events and rallies.
Also on the topic of how African Americans have power at the ballot, Kimberly Brown Pellum said, “In addition to non-participation not being an option, I also think that modern loyalty is not an option as far as letting these politicians’ campaign to us and not entertain us. Bringing out a saxophone or Jay-Z and Beyoncé isn’t enough to earn our respect. We need to become politically mature, and I think we have to answer that call so that folks can’t think that visiting a church once and a whole is enough to earn our loyalty.”
With the closing of the ceremony, the panelists opened the floor to the audience and left them with some inspirational final remarks. From fellow FAMU Rattlers to alumni, to faculty and staff members, this black history month town hall meeting was not one to forget.
SGA freshman senator Ahmad Kebe said: “I really appreciated the opportunity to come out and hear from such active members of the community. This event really inspired me to continue my own work here at FAMU. Not only for the benefit of our student government but for the benefit of letting my peers know how important it is to learn about what’s going on around us because we are the future leaders of the world.”
The #ForTheCulture Black History Month Town Hall really hit the mark, restoring not only the power behind a vote but the power behind the black vote.