NCCU PACE Committee Leading the Way With: “A Call to Colors” – GDN Exclusive, Vol. II, Part XXIIIby Cash Michaels, GDN Staff Writer September 16, 2019
When it comes to leading the way with “A Call to Colors,” North Carolina Central University, and its Political Action and Civic Engagement (PACE) committee is the cutting edge for the student civic engagement strategy of voter registration, education and mobilization.
And Imani Johnson, a junior, and General Body Committee chairwoman for PACE – an arm of the Student Government Association – says “A Call to Colors” civic engagement strategy is still a work in progress on NCCU’s campus.
Students are being orientated not only to the importance of voting, and that many of the issues of today do, in fact, affect them, but that they also have a voting precinct on campus – only one of two HBCUs in the south to have one.
“We are currently in the process of making sure all of our students are registered, we’re also talking about the importance of voting, and we’re working to make sure that our votes are being counted, because the state of North Carolina has some interesting voting policies…”
Ms. Johnson, 20, noted that in the past, there were issues about NCCU students’ needing to vote early because of campus residency requirements. They have to “clear up that confusion,” she said. In the meantime, PACE is planning events talking about voter efficacy and involvement, making sure that student voters “…are prepared.”
Last November for the 2018 midterm elections, Johnson says there was a “March to the polls” and an Election Day cookout, sponsored by a wide variety of campus organizations, including Divine Nine groups.
This year, PACE will be in charge of coordination going into 2019 local elections, and the 2020 state and national elections.
The “first step” is getting students to understand the importance of registering to vote, Johnson says. “The second step is voter education, talking about why voting is important, telling them what’s on the ballot that affects them, and then in preparing them for 2020, I want to take them to [the NC NAACP’s annual] Historic Thousands on Jones Street March and Rally in February so that they can hear about all of the policies, all of the issues that are happening in our community, and what we can do about them.”
Johnson added that she also plans to work closely with the campus’ NAACP chapter, and hold local candidates’ forums for students to ask pertinent questions of their prospective leaders. She was still excited by the recent visit of presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris to Durham, where she visited St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church – just a few short blocks away from the NCCU campus.
PACE is also partnering with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and it’s “A Vote less People is a Hopeless People” national campaign in hosting voter registration drives, dormitory events, and also anticipates working with the NCCU Alumni Association’s CEAC per similar events.
On September 30th, a “You Can Vote” campus training will be held in the Student Union. In October, there will be an October 8th campus dorm-storming to get out the vote for Durham primary elections.
And on Nov. 5th – Election Day, there will be an “Election Day Block party down to the law school building.
“A Call to Colors” strategy is still evolving at NCCU, Ms. Johnson admits, but that doesn’t mean PACE can’t begin sharing with student groups on other HBCU campuses. Indeed, she is in contact with student leaders at Shaw and St. Augustine’s universities, monitoring their student civic engagement activities, and sharing what PACE is doing.
“You have to lead by example first to see how it’s working on your campus, and getting more involved, using social media to showcase what we’re doing on the campus of NCCU….,” she said. “It really starts with us figuring out what works for us. It’s about us laying that foundation publicly, so that others can learn from us, and grow with us, as well.”
The PACE “A Call to Colors” plan for 2019-20 is not a bad one for other HBCUs, and even predominately white institutions, to follow:
– increasing voter engagement by significant numbers
– keeping students informed on critical issues affecting Durham and NCCU
– increase awareness/support for voting in all upcoming elections
– holding local elected officials accountable
– partnering with local civic engagement/public policy groups
– using campus resources to keep students engaged on the issues
– make voting for students not only a civic duty, but a social responsibility
– build connections with local and statewide candidates
– get the entire NCCU student body to participate in voting and civic engagement
programs PACE sponsors throughout the academic year.
Imani Johnson, a native of Atlanta, Ga. and first generation HBCU student in her family, is a political science major at NCCU, and is deeply committed to student voter empowerment through “A Call to Colors.”