Bennett’s President Dawkins Supports “A Call to Colors” – GDN Exclusive Part XVby Cash Michaels, Contributing Writer July 17, 2018
Vote like a Bennett Belle!
Few people remember that in 1958, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the campus of Bennett College for Women, and helped to inspire a generation of female leaders.
Or that after that momentous occasion, the actual planning that eventually led to the historic Feb. 1, 1960 lunch counter protest at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, took place at Bennett College. And that after the Greensboro Four from neighboring NC A&T University took their courageous stand, more students from Bennett were arrested during lunch counter protests subsequently than any others.
Founded in 1926, Bennett College for Women “…is a small, private, historically Black liberal arts college for women…[that] promotes morally grounded maturation, intellectual honesty, purposeful public service, and responsible civic action.”
In the mind of Bennett’s current President, Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, civic pride and responsibility are all a part of the history and culture of “Bennett’s Belles,” which is why she supports “A Call to Colors,” a nonpartisan campaign to have every student on a historically black college and university campus throughout North Carolina registered to vote, especially in time for this fall’s critical midterm elections.
“We’re very supportive of “A Call to Colors,” Dr. Dawkins told GDN in a phone interview from Greensboro recently. “You know ‘Bennett Belles’ are known as ‘Voting Belles.’ In the recent election, percentage-wide, more students from Bennett participated in the recent election than any other institution in the city.”
“We have faculty members who lead that initiative with our students. We have a tradition of marching to the polls on voting days.”
But beyond Bennett’s campus, Dr. Dawkins agrees that convincing young people to exercise their voice through the ballot box is a challenge, but it is one that all HBCUs must endeavor to overcome.
“I think you have to have grassroots groups, like we have at Bennett, supportive faculty and staff that would take an initiative like this and educate students. You have to have discussions on campus about relevant topics coming up in the election.”
“You’ve got to touch them, in some way,” Dr. Dawkins concluded.
Dr. Dawkins, who was appointed by the Bennett College for Women Trustee Board to become the 18thpermanent President in July, after serving a semester as interim, is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also an alumna of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, Class of 1975.
GDN’s strategy for “A Call to Colors”
GDN’s strategy for “A Call to Colors” response is quite simple and powerful. Ask all alumni associations, at all levels, to create standing committees for non-partisan civic engagement. They would ask their members to volunteer 8, 16, 24 hours or more per election cycle, to help mobilize Black voter participation. Volunteer activities could include making telephone calls, Facebook posting, door knocking, organizing their churches or other community-based organizations, Greek organizations, working polls, supporting the NAACP and more.
GDN recommends that Alumni Association urge all HBCU Student Government Associations (SGAs) to make similar civic engagement pledges. SGAs should have twice a year student rallies promoting civic engagement and student organizations. “A Call to Colors” is a suggestion that appeals to student and HBCU Alumni members sense of community responsibility.
Dr. Dawkins joins Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, President of Livingstone; Dr. Everett Ward, President of St. Augustine’s University; Warren Arrington, President of the Livingstone College National Alumni Association; Dr. John Larkins, President of the St. Augustine’s University National Alumni Association; Raymond Privott, President of Fayetteville State University’s National Alumni Association; Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1); Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12); NC Secretary of Veteran Affairs Larry Hall; Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the NC NAACP; newly appointed State Senator Milton “Toby” Fitch, who is also “Most Worshipful Grand Master State of NC and Jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Mason Lodge;Dr. Lavonia Allison, former Chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People;Charles Warren, Chairman of the NC Black Leadership Caucus; and N. Carnell Robinson, past Chairman of the NC Black Leadership Caucus; Andrea Harris, Senior Fellow of the Durham-based Self-Help Credit Union; John C. Easterling III, President of the College Democrats of North Carolina and Robert Stephens, Founder of the HBCU Collective, in endorsing “A Call to Colors” civic engagement campaign.
“A Call to Colors” campaign is working to formally engage with the Pan-Hellenic Councils, the NC NAACP, the NC Black Leadership Caucus, and the Prince Hall Masons and the Eastern Star, among others, to support the effort.
Dr. Dawkins also joins other black leadership who endorse “A Call to Colors” action plan recommendation to subscribe to Greater Diversity News’ regular Civic Engagement Project eNews for free at www.greaterdiversity.com.
Vote like a Bennet Belle, vote for your Blue & White.