Part Two: The Pitt County Model – a Greater Diversity News (GDN) Exclusive Part XXIIIby Peter Grear December 11, 2018
The November 6, elections offered much for Black leaders and communities to consider going forward. One such consideration took place recently with the Pitt County HBCU Coalition (The Coalition). Several weeks prior to the election “The Coalition” endorsed “A Call to Colors” as their model for civic engagement as it related to educating, organizing and mobilizing Black voter participation.
On November 17, 2018, representatives of “The Coalition” met and did a debrief of their efforts and to design a strategy going forward. The debrief was very revealing and promising. It is important to note that there was virtual consensus on the task of The Coalition going forward and true excitement in embracing the task.
As noted by Dr. Patti Saunders-Smith, president of “The Coalition,” our goal is to create a civic engagement model that can be used nationally by HBCUs, Greeks and other organizations that are committed to the full participation of Black communities in the electoral process. The consensus was, that by creating a model we would eliminate waste that comes from the needless duplication of efforts and benefit from the exchange of ideas and experiences that come from working from a common blueprint.
In the words of Mildred A. Council, president of the Pitt County Chapter of the Shaw University National Alumni Association, “We worked, and it paid off in Pitt County.” She has issued a call to Shaw Bears to sign-up for GDN’s eNews and to review “A Call to Colors” on its site. She noted that the Eastern North Carolina Regional Association of Black Social Workers chapter (ENCRABSW) was also involved in rallying voters. “The Coalition” is tallying up the time that each person and/or group spent on this project and evaluating what was accomplished.
North Carolina Central University’s National Alumni Association (NCCUNAA) member, Richard Smith, vice-president of the National HBCU Alumni Association Foundation (NHBCUAAF) indicated that “The Coalition” gave an excellent report and indicated that our strategy is solid going into our next round.
In assessing the present civic engagement landscape, we’ve found a hodge-podge of the well-intended activists that need better coordination. We’ve found across-the-board support by Black organizations of every stripe and kind that want to provide legitimate support to efforts to educate, organize and mobilize Black voters. And although the NAACP is the organization with seemingly universal support, the supporting organizations approach to the NAACP needs to be fine-tuned. That being what it is, there appears to be simple fixes that will lead to better cooperation between volunteers and organizations that offer community leadership. The Pitt County HBCU Coalition has agreed to become a model for “how to” more effectively participate in civic engagement.
Apart from Pitt County, our debrief revealed random student activities leading up to the election and difficulties encountered by outside organizations that wanted to work with efforts to mobilize students. On a brighter note, one sorority sister explained that her sorority has urged all of its members to support NAACP activities to include paid membership. She indicated that her chapter made 4,000 telephone calls to support voter mobilization in 2018.
By becoming an HBCU model for civic engagement, “The Coalition” is making minor revisions to their local operating procedure that would have major results when adopted by National HBCU Alumni Associations. A good example is their decision to create a standing committee for civic engagement and to address it as an agenda item at each of their meetings. All HBCUs should have standing civic engagement committees and address the participation of their local chapters on a continuous basis.
“A Call to Colors” recommendation that each HBCU member volunteer 8, 16, 24 hours or more through their local NAACP during each election cycle, made “The Coalition” efforts much more focused than they would have been with everyone having to plan their involvement with voter mobilization and not knowing the best way to do it. “The Coalition” is ready to volunteer their efforts to help combat the voter suppression that is coming with the enactment of new North Carolina Voter ID laws. This is the kind of effort that will need immediate attention and a master-plan response that necessarily has to come from our NAACP.
It is important to state and restate that The Coalition as well as all HBCUs have many highly skilled members that represent the very best minds in the world. HBCU memberships include Greeks and other organizational representatives from across the country. Thousands of corporate leaders and elected officials are HBCU Alumni. The point of the matter is that there is no shortage of talent necessary to address the task at hand–mobilizing Black voters and defeating voter suppression.
Our debrief revealed numerous election needs that were identified too late in the process to properly address. Going forward volunteers will be registering 17-year old’s that will be eligible to vote during the next election cycle and mobilizing to address voter ID and other forms of voter suppression will be high on their volunteer agenda. Again, there are things that HBCU volunteers are ready to do now in preparation for 2019 and 2020 elections.
Finally, understanding that we are in the formative stages of mobilizing Greeks, HBCUs and other community leadership organizations is important. We had several National HBCU Alumni Associations leaders that wrote their local chapters asking them to support “A Call to Colors” by asking each of their members to pledge 8, 16, 24 hours or more to help voter mobilization. This request requires ongoing attention to ensure that local chapters are responding. To do this, each national organization should do a roll-call at each meeting to confirm that chapters are being responsive and working through the issues that we will inevitably encounter.
There were numerous other issues that were discussed that will be addressed as we go forward. The debrief revealed things that were done very well and things that can be done better.
HBCUs should ask all their chapters to establish standing civic engagement committees and request updated information at each meeting. Each chapter meeting should include a roll-call from each chapter in a national association meeting and each member in a local chapter meeting should update their volunteer efforts.
This was an excellent debrief and helps in putting “A Call to Colors” strategies together and spreading them to our 105 HBCUs nationwide. We’ve also developed a data intake form and an action plan for national and local HBCU chapters. They have been published on our website, greaterdiversity.com.
To get more information about “A Call to Colors”, sign up for GDN’s free eNews Click Here.