Black History Month town hall leaves students feeling empowered

(Left to right) Panelists John Warford, Tiffany Loftin, Curtis Richarson, Kimberly Brown Pellum and Darius Young discuss the Black vote in America. Photo courtesy of Sierra Lyons

On Thursday morning, students and faculty gathered in Lee Hall Auditorium for Florida A&M University’s Black History Month town hall, “African Americans and the Vote,” #ForTheCulture.

The town hall was hosted by Assistant Vice President Carmen Cummings Martin, and gave students and faculty the opportunity to learn more about the importance of the Black vote, especially with the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.

The panelists included Assistant Professor of History, Kimberly Brown Pellum, NAACP National Director of the Youth and College Division, Tiffany Loftin, City of Tallahassee Commissioner, Curtis Richardson, Assistant Professor of Geography, History and Political Science, John Warford and Associate Director of History, Darius Young.

Each panelist brought insight to our current political climate and why college-age constituents need to not only be registered to vote but actually informed on a local and national level.

Loftin reiterates the importance of being engaged and aware. “Registering to vote isn’t going to be the end all be all for you,” Loftin said. “We have to keep up with the rules and the rules change every day,” Loftin said.

While voting is a right that most don’t have to think much about in today’s society, Richardson reminded the audience that this wasn’t always the case.

“I never saw examples of people who looked like me voting and working in public office,” Richardson said. “I never missed voting in a single election.

When Black people are reminded of the fight that their ancestors went through for them to have the right to vote, they are reminded of the responsibility they have to the community to be grateful for the right they now have, and to not take it for granted.

But beyond registering to vote and keeping up with the ever changing rules of politics, college students were reminded of the importance in voting based on values they actually believe in and not ones they’re simply told to believe.

Pellum wanted the audience to know that blindly supporting a political party because of tradition or because of what your family supports is not good enough. “Blind loyalty is not an option,” Pellum said. It was a reminder to wake up to the reality they are living in and be sure that what they are supporting is because it’s what they truly believe. 

What happens to the nation after the 2020 Presidential election will have a direct impact on college students here in Tallahassee. With many students at FAMU hoping that President Donald Trump won’t be re-elected for a second term, panelists emphasized the duty audience members have during this campaign season.

Warford posed an important question to the audience: “Do you and I operate in reactive mode and react out of fear?”

Warford along with all of the panelists encouraged audience members of the town hall to not operate out of fear, but to come from a place of knowledge and alertness as students, constituents and citizens.

Most students left the town hall being reminded of the power that the Black vote truly has.