It’s not easy to get full participation from the student body when it comes to school elections.
However, Ashley Gray, a fourth-year English education student, has devoted countless hours to encouraging students to vote, by single-handedly coordinating last nights’ 5000 Voters Strike/Comedy Jam.
Gray began organized the Comedy Jam, which, after a few years of hiatus, was reintroduced to the student body during the 2010 school election season.
“I wanted to bring back the Comedy Jam because student morale and participation in elections was very low,” Gray said.
Florida A&M students, who have enjoyed the Comedy Jam in recent years, may be unaware that the event was non-existent for a short time prior to 2010.
The event reportedly began in 2000 under the leadership of former SGA administrative assistant Delores DuPont and her colleague Benita Lamb, as the “Voter’s Only Comedy Jam.”
The duo started the event because of the student body’s apparent lack of interest in school elections.
Gray said that was precisely the reason she decided to bring the Comedy Jam back.
“Students need to become more aware of their campus leaders. You cannot complain if you don’t take the necessary actions,” said Gray.
“We know that with elections, people won’t participate unless you give them something.”
Tiffany McLeod, a candidate for Miss FAMU said she believes the Comedy Jam did increase voter morale.
“The Comedy Jam encourages students to join in on election festivities and it also gives them a chance to alleviate stress during mid-terms,” said McLeod, a Tallahassee native.
Raven Otway, a pharmacy student, also from Tallahassee said she thought Comedy Jam was a great idea.
“The Comedy Jam really inspired me to go vote. I thought it was an awesome thing for FAMU to do for its students,” Otway said.
Roderick Hollingsworth, a business administration student from Orlando said he would have remained oblivious to elections had it not been for Grey’s efforts, which were inspired by the work of Dupont.
“I wasn’t really familiar with the voting process and I honestly didn’t think my vote would matter. But when I found out about the Comedy Jam, I decided to go vote,” said Hollingsworth.
Gray said she also felt it necessary to pay tribute to Dupont, who succumbed to cancer in 2005. By some accounts, she played a significant role in redeveloping and enhancing the daily operation of SGA.
“After learning about Dupont and her contributions to the university, I felt it [Comedy Jam] would also be nice tribute,” Gray said.
Gray said she contacted Dupont’s family to learn more about how she strategically planned and got the event off the ground.
She then began organizing the event, which Gray admits was a challenge because of the gap between the end of the Voter’s Only Comedy Jam and the beginning of the 5000 Voters Strike/Comedy Jam.
“My biggest milestone was having to start from nothing,” said Gray.
In October 2009, Gray began scraping any information she could find about the Comedy Jam of Duponts’ time.
“A huge gap of time occurred between the last and current Comedy Jam,
no records were kept…virtually nothing was left behind,” said Gray.
“I had to do a lot of research, including getting in contact with Dupont’s family to find ways to enhance her idea.”
Enhance, she did.
The original Comedy Jam in Gaither Gym, averaged 3000 voters after five months of preparation, Grey was able to increase that figure by 1000 in February 2010.
Dupont’s family was honored at last year’s event.
This year’s Comedy Jam was funded by the Activities and Service fee, at a cost of $14650; $8000 went to compensating the event’s headliner, comedian Rob Stapleton, according to Senate Appropriation Bill 11SP-011. In order to attend, students had to present a ticket and for non-students and voters, a $1 entry fee was required.
According to Morris Hawkins, coordinator of budget for the Student Government Association, an estimated 2700 people attended the Comedy Jam.
While it is believed the event-encouraged people to vote, others felt that it could have been better publicized.
“The Comedy Jam did encourage people to vote,” said Floide Shelley, a business administration student from Miami.
“The fliers for the Comedy Jam went out Monday, because they were unsure if they were going to have it. I felt like if it was better publicized more people would have been here,” said the candidate for senior class president.
Chelsea Cartwright, who ran for sophomore attendant, agreed with Shelley and said she did not know about the Comedy Jam.
“I don’t think it was advertised very well. I had no idea it was going on until I went and voted,” said Cartwright, from Rochester Hills, Mich.
McLeod said the events’ organizers along with the candidates and their campaign teams share the blame for the event not being properly publicized.
“Instead of pushing our individual campaigns we [candidates] should have gotten the word out about the Comedy Jam as well,” McLeod said.
(In the print version of the Wednesday, Feb. 23 issue of The Famuan, Ashley Gray’s last name was misspelled with an “e” instead of an “a.” The Famuan apologizes for this misnomer).