Student participation is no longer confined to the classroom. The Political Organizations Committee has launched an effort to increase student activity as well as generate student leaders as candidates for city offices in the upcoming elections.
In a recent POC meeting, FAMU political science professor and a Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor encouraged students to engage themselves in the political process, not only as voters but as potential policy makers. However, Proctor did point out the challenges of a political career.
“Politics is not for the weak of heart, it’s a game of hardball. You can’t play hardball with a plastic bat,” Proctor said.
He went on to talk about the media as a useful tool in shaping the public perception of a candidate.
“It’s not enough to simply voice your discrepancies, as a political candidate you have to bring a sense of maturity to the issues,” Proctor said. Part of that maturity according to Proctor, is being well educated and ready to respond to political issues at a moment’s notice.
“A politician is much like a boxer. He’s able to respond to questions about his position on issues like a reflex act,” Proctor said.
Answering that call for more student participation in local government is Karamo Brown. Brown, a 21 year-old political science student from Houston, cited several reasons for his interest in politics.
“Students comprise a substantial amount of this city’s population, therefore, adequate student representation in local government would help a great deal in getting their concerns addressed,” Brown said.
Brown, who is making plans to campaign for a seat on the city commission, said he will officially file for candidacy later this month.
In addition to concerns about bringing commercial restaurant service to FAMU’s campus, Brown’s proposed platform will include issues addressing Tallahassee’s growing homeless community, as well as the ongoing discussion about a possible merger of Bond and Wesson Elementary Schools on the south side.
While Brown anticipates a more visible political position as a candidate for city office, other students attending the POC meeting expressed the desire to fill the pivotal support roles, backing a potential candidate.
Shanedra Barnes, 21, a political science student from Tallahassee said that she believes politics is one of the most effective tools African Americans can use to address their concerns. “This is how my political voice can be heard,” she said.
Gabrielle Andrews, 22, a psychology student from St. Petersburg, agreed and pledged any support she could give to a potential candidate for any of the five seats available on the city commission in the upcoming Sept. 10 elections.
“Supporting a candidate heightens the community’s political awareness and gets them involved in the process,” Andrews said.
Asked about why he so strongly endorses student involvement in city and local government, Proctor said the POC is simply an extension of the political science courses he instructs.
“The best way to learn something is to actually go through the experience. I stress the hands-on approach to learning, not just the theoretical concepts,” Proctor said.
The recent appointment of FAMU graduate Kwame Kilpatrick as the mayor of Detroit is something Proctor said was inspiring to him. “I have to believe we have other leaders within our ranks here at FAMU as well,” he said.