I am tempted to use this space to tell you about my reaction to Senator Barack Obama’s speech when he accepted the Dem-ocratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States of America on that special day, August 28.
Put simply, I, like many, cried.
There were tears for Martin, tears for Malcolm, tears for Harriet, tears for Ella, tears for Fannie Lou, and many tears for the nameless thousands who put it all on the line so that this day and other “justice delayed” days would happen.
To them, I just said thank you.
And for those who do not know why we cried, well that’s for another column.
But I digress.
Actually, this where I am supposed to tell you NCCU students that you have an opportunity to make history by electing the first African American president of the United States.
While the significance of such an outcome cannot be minimized, in my judgment, the real history will be made when masses of people, especially young people, introduce themselves to this thing called democracy.
For far too long the majority of Americans, young and old, have been disinterested, disengaged, disillusioned, and too dismissive of the impact that politics have on their lives, making this the “Dis” Era.
This is demonstrated by the low rates of participation in elections and the lack of basic civic knowledge.
This takes place while in North Carolina one of two African American children do not graduate from high school on time and one of three enter the criminal justice system; while 27 percent of African Americans and 30 percent of Hispanics live in poverty in North Carolina; while one-fourth of all North Carolina children younger than age 5 live in poverty; while more than a million people in North Carolina do not have health insurance; and while more than 2 million North Carolinians cannot afford a decent place to live.
The time to end the “Dis” Era is now.
But mass participation in this and subsequent elections is only the start.
Real democracy requires the full engagement of its citizens in all facets of community life, from community service to full participation in political and policy processes.
Therefore on our campus we have the opportunity to make real history by creating the truly engaged campus.
For example, we should support Chancellor Nelms as he strengthens our community service program.
Students should participate in more community service projects, beyond the minimal requirement; faculty should design more service learning courses that address authentic community needs, and there are many.
Politically, students should not only vote but also should learn about the political process and be engaged in debates about how to solve our societal problems.
Moreover, NCCU should explore in a systematic and structured way how its academic programs, especially the curriculum, can encourage deepened civic engagement that contributes to real social change.
Actually, mass civic engagement should be expected, not historic, but this election can be the start.
Vote Nov. 4.