On September 1, 2004 representatives from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC only Historically Black University) attended a meeting at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Board of elections. The objective of their presence was to compel the board to grant Johnson C. Smith University, a campus polling booth. Anthony Tindall, of the Student Government Association presented a proposal to the board concerning this issue. This has been a point of contention between the university and the county for almost twenty-five years. Anthony Tindall maintains that the campus warrants a polling booth, due to the large number of voters on campus. He also stated that the booth would be beneficial to students without transportation, and with time restrictions due to class and work schedules. Mr. Tindall also believes that an on campus polling booth would further engage students in the political process. The board made a motion to vote on having a booth at JCSU. The next step requires the board to petition the State Board of Elections for a voting booth at JCSU. At this point, Mr. Philip Summa, a board member stated, “If we give a polling booth to Johnson C. Smith, then we have to give one to Bojangles.” Attendees of the meeting expressed their outrage and Summa attempted to rescind his statement. He offered the spurious excuse that he “does business with Bojangles”, and that was why he made the statement.
As an African-American woman and a Johnson C. Smith University student, this is unacceptable. I found Mr. Summa’s comments highly offensive and borderline racist. His comparison of our great center of higher education to a fast food chicken franchise displays his disregard for our institutions and African-Americans in general. His remark also conjures up the stereotypical image of Black people as chicken eating buffoons. In my opinion, his statement also says something about us as African-Americans. It shows that we have allowed people like Mr. Summa to feel secure in their racism. We have gotten entirely too comfortable and allowed the likes of Mr. Summa, to believe that he can get away with making these sorts of comments without suffering a severe collective backlash. I am outraged by his statement and as fellow HBCUer’s should be too.This type of blatant disrespect should not go unchecked. Philip Summa needs to make amends for his terrible plunder in the form of a public apology. He should not only apologize to Johnson C. Smith University, but to Charlotte’s African-American community, and HBCU’s as well.
Until he does so, I think Philip Summa should be nicknamed “Mr. Bojangles”.
Megan Ain Malachi Johnson C. Smith University Student