The push is on to get HBCU students to vote
Schools are using social media, virtual events and celebrity influencers to make it happen
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have always been at the forefront of pushing voters to the polls in important elections. The 2020 election is no different. Here is what’s happening on certain campuses:
Clark Atlanta University
On Oct. 27, Clark Atlanta University president George T. French Jr., graduate student Jasmyn Bell and the student government association (SGA) joined rapper Common at the Georgia STAND-UP table talk to encourage citizens to use their voice and vote.
“We need to insulate ourselves with each other and keep building up our leaders, the young ones, the old ones, because as stated earlier, this is about continuous progression, not about Nov. 3,” said Bell.
“You don’t have responsibility only for your roommate. Now you have responsibility to make sure to drive your mother, your father and grandparents,” French said.
CAU has also connected with BlackMenVote.org to bring “GET OUT THE VOTE TUESDAYS!” for a voting discussion featuring rapper T.I., hosted by actor Terrence J.
“Local elections are the most important. Local elections affect exactly where you live, your city council, your mayors, your senators, congressman, your district attorneys, you know these are the people who will be servicing your community,” T.I. said.
“Those votes, they have to mean something. Once those people get in position, get into office, they have to have the concerns and questions and the things that we are lacking in our communities,” said T.I. “They have to effectively have a hand on getting these things rectified for us.”
CAU also created a social media challenge this month for all registered student organizations on campus. The challenge was created to get the word out about voting, and there was a cash prize for the campus-chartered organization or other registered organizations with the winning submission. The topics discussed were registering to vote, voting by mail, signing up to be a poll worker, developing a plan for casting a ballot, taking a friend or family member to vote, the importance of voting and highlighting important dates and deadlines. The hashtags all organizations had to use were #VoteHBCU and #CAUVotes when posting their videos on social media.
Prairie View A&M
As the Nov. 3 Election Day approaches, voting awareness and preparedness are in full swing at Prairie View A&M University.
Although students, faculty and community members are still awaiting the results of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund-led voter suppression case against Waller County, Texas, students are making their votes count and their voices heard in the upcoming election.
Prairie View A&M students have been vocal about getting their peers registered to vote and out to the polls this semester. The student government association in particular has been a driving force behind getting its fellow Panthers prepped and ready for the upcoming election.
Beginning on Sept. 15, the SGA kicked off its #PVAMUVOTES movement with voter registration pop-ups that lasted until the registration deadline on Oct. 5. At various locations around campus, students were able to check their registration status and get registered securely.
Students were offered virtual voter registration workshops until Oct. 28. Prairie View A&M also held a March to the Polls event, and students participated in a socially distanced march around campus sponsored by the SGA and Campus Activities Board.
Prairie View A&M has also made physically getting students to the polls its No. 1 priority.
Since the early voting period opened in Texas on Oct. 13, Prairie View A&M has offered a PV to the Polls shuttle service that buses students to and from polling sites during early voting.
These services will last until Oct. 30, when the early voting period ends.
As Election Day looms, Morehouse College is still trying to encourage its students to vote, though none are on campus. So, the college has taken to unconventional routes to encourage its students to vote before Nov. 3.
Morehouse is located in the heart of Atlanta, and with Georgia being a key battleground state during this pivotal election, the importance of voting is extreme.
Morehouse, along with Spelman College and Clark Atlanta, started a “Votecoming” initiative that encouraged Atlanta University Center Consortium students and alumni to vote. Students are asked to wear their school paraphernalia to the polls and take selfies to post online to encourage their friends to vote. Because on-campus homecomings were canceled, this showed solidarity among the three schools.
In past years, Morehouse used voter registration drives, campaign events and even had Forbes Arena as a polling place in the 2018 midterm elections. Forbes Arena was replaced as a polling site this year; instead, State Farm Arena will be used.
Men of Morehouse remained active in their communities, encouraging people to vote. Tyrin Gamble, a Bonner Scholar and sophomore defensive back on the Maroon Tigers football team, helped register voters in his hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina.
With the absence of a fall football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hampton University’s head football coach Robert Prunty decided that he needed to educate his players on the importance of voting. With so much attention swirling around the presidential election season, Prunty realized it was up to him to lead his men to find and use their own political voices.
Hampton is considered hallowed ground for Black education and progress in America. One of the first schools built primarily for Black and Native American students, Hampton is also the home of Emancipation Oak. Beneath this sacred tree’s branches was the location of the first Southern reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Before the tree received its name, the great oak was known as a place where former slaves could learn from Black educators.
Inspiration for this initiative first struck Prunty while he was working out on Hampton’s campus and listening to the life story of Fannie Lou Hamer. Hamer was a staunch activist for voting rights in the mid-1960s. Growing up a Mississippi sharecropper, Hamer realized that she needed to encourage her community to get involved in voting so that they could bring changes they so desperately needed. After learning so much about the adversity Hamer faced and the physical abuse she endured, Prunty knew the least he could do to promote voting advocacy was by preparing his players for this election and getting them registered to vote.
During this election year, universities are encouraging student-athletes to use their platforms to highlight the importance of civic engagement and voter activism.
Howard University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has focused on increasing voter awareness and involvement on Howard’s campus.
“As young voters, we must recognize that this election is much more than who will be in power for the next four years,” said Kaylah Clark, SAAC treasurer. “It will influence things for the next 40 years. We need to make sure to vote in people who uphold our morals and values.”
SAAC has hosted virtual sessions for students to discuss the history of voting in America, step-by-step instructions on how to vote, differences in absentee, mail-in and in-person voting and explanations of topics that will appear on the ballot.
For the last several weeks, details related to voter education have been posted on social media, including voter registration deadlines for all 50 states and the nation’s capital. Additionally, SAAC encouraged student-athletes to sign up as poll workers and volunteer in their communities.
View this post on Instagram
Join us this Friday for our Voter Registration Event! It’s time we focus and lock in. It’s imperative that we all know the basics of registering to vote, the different ways you can vote, how to become a poll worker and what weight we carry as young black student athletes! We can’t wait to see you there! 💙❤️ #YourVoteMatters … Information on registration for the event will be emailed to every student athletes Howard e-mail!
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) has implemented a #MEACRockstheVote social media campaign in the hopes of increasing the number of registered voters.
View this post on Instagram
We’re encouraging our students to join us in the #MEACRockstheVote initiative! The @meacsports will provide info and tips throughout the registration period. Let your school administrators know when you successfully register. Bi-weekly, we’ll tally up the amount of newly registered students and share it on the MEAC's social media pages Do you think your school can get the most students registered? #IBackTheMEACAt50 #IBackTheMEAC
Florida A&M University
Students at Florida A&M University have made their presence known leading up to the November election. Blake Simpson, a defensive back for the Rattlers, led his football team and students in a march to encourage voting among college students in August. At the march, athletes and students in the Tallahassee, Florida, community took the time to register to vote. Students at FAMU have also started a social media 10-day challenge leading up to the election. It requires students to post a picture after they vote while using the hashtag #RattlerstothePolls2020.
Join Miss FAMU in “Rattlers to the Polls “. Post a picture after you vote and use the hashtag #RattlerstothePolls2020. In your caption answer “why voting is important to you”. For a chance to win FAMU apparel! pic.twitter.com/bXXxLlX6fJ
— Erika Nicole (@erikanxcole) Oct. 21, 2020
The FAMU student government association has been partnering with the NAACP and the Tallahassee Urban League to help and encourage residents of the Tallahassee community to vote. Students and members of the NAACP have been going door to door with voter registration forms.
FAMU has been providing students and staff an opportunity to vote early by setting up a polling site on campus. Leading up to the election, FAMU’s electoral commission has put together a series of events called “Debate Week.” Each scheduled event allows students to play a series of games while learning more about politics. These events are being held Oct. 26 through Oct. 30. Greek-letter organizations are also making sure they cast their votes this election by hosting an event called “Stroll to the Polls” as part of homecoming week.
FAMU will also host the school’s 20th election night special on election night Nov. 3. Students will broadcast live at 10 p.m. ET on the university’s channel, News 20 at Five.