Political action among students

Voting in presidential elections is usually the first thing that comes to mind when most of us think of being politically involved. Though voting for the highest office is important, the changes that affect our day-to-day lives most are local elections.

Many focus their time on national politics, but voting for mayor and other local representatives, could mean the difference between creating the change you want to see or witnessing changes that you don’t agree with.

Campaign week at Florida A&M University (FAMU) is always the most anticipated time of the year. Students become extremely involved with student elections in efforts to promote change on campus. However, this same energy is not exerted towards local and state elections.  

Dajuh Sawyer is a senior business administration student at FAMU who is a member of the St. Petersburg Women’s League of Voters. Sawyer aspires to run for city council and then become the first African-American female mayor of the city of St. Petersburg.

“My long-term goal is to get to congress. I want to run for office because I want the next generation to look at a politician and say, ‘I can be like her, or she looks like me,’ and I want them to know that anything is possible,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said that everyone should exercise their right to vote and that it is important for students to vote because students must know how politics have a profound impact, both locally and nationally, that affect their everyday lives.

Students in SGA inform others about the importance of voting |
Photo credit: Ashley Flete

During last year’s presidential election, FAMU increased political awareness among students by creating the “Strike the Vote” initiative. This initiative focused on registering all students to vote. Not only are students encouraged to vote, but they also are urged to be cognitive of the people they are voting for.

University officials hope that initiatives like these become a staple at FAMU and in the FAMU community to further voter education and awareness.

Keishia Herring is a senior political science student at FAMU who said that she’s politically involved. Hering said she participated in campaigns for Charlie Crist and Kionee Mcghee, who serves on the House of Representatives, District 117.

“As an African-American woman in this country, my people need a voice,” Herring said. “It’s most essential because of the control and power it truly has. My life philosophy is, you can’t get around the rules if you don’t know them.”

However, there is a standing issue with millennials and voting in this era. Most feel their vote will not make a difference, but there is power behind every vote.

According to Pew Research Center, 39.6 percent of minorities do not execute their right to vote.  For different reasons, some rather not go through the hassle, some students feel they lack the “political knowledge”, or others simply are not registered to vote.

Brandon Johnson is a senior political science student at FAMU, who serves as a campus liaison for the African-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and plans to someday run for public office.

“I believe that everyone has a role in our political system. Everybody won't be a politician or serve in a position but being aware and engaged is everyone's responsibility,” Johnson said, “Our political system thrives on everyone playing an active role in the process. This is especially important for our students who are enrolled in state funded institutions.”

Johnson continued to stress the importance of voting, he believes every aspect of a student’s life from financial aid, housing and the campus police department come from factors controlled by those in political systems.

Marven Laborde looks for information regarding voting stats in our local community
Photo credit: Ashley Flete 

“It is important that students not only are aware of what is going on but also that they engage in these political discussions and hold our elected officials accountable,” Johnson said.

In the future, Johnson plans to pave his way by starting off in local government and one-day serve on a national platform. He hopes to implement the policy and create the change needed to make our communities safer and more efficient.

“I've grown up in the Florida political system all my life and I have seen some great and some not so great leaders come into power. That exposure has lead me to believe that God has called me to a life of being a public servant and making sure I do my part in helping my fellow man. All I aspire to be is a servant leader for my community.”

Contrary to Johnson’s belief, others do not hold the same aspirations catered to politics like Marven Laborde.

Laborde is a senior chemical engineering student at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, who has currently been working on local elections in Florida. Laborde ensures that everyone who is able to vote can vote.

Regardless of such actions, Laborde said he has no aspirations in politics because of their restrictive role and the position that is carried out by politicians.

“I feel like the stance and power of change can be ordered by people with no limits or confined boundaries. I need freedom to perform and act on measures in their most volatile states. Timing and freedom is everything to me,” Laborde said. “History has shown us that if we are not knowledgeable or cognizant of what is going on in our legislative branches or any demands that is made for the majority, someone will have the short end of the stick and be subjected to plans that they will never agree to.”