Queens for a National Cause – (Elections 2020 in Review) – GDN Exclusiveby Imani Johnson, Miss NCCU 2020-2021 January 14, 2021
Marching to the beat of their own drums at their own pace, HBCU students across the nation have prepared themselves for this moment their entire lives.
The sound of HBCU marching bands is a tune that has been played for our community since the time in which we could make a rhythm of music to uplift our spirits began. However, this tune comes with a fundamental responsibility that will ultimately define our futures. Whether our students have physically marched to the polls or to the post office to cast their ballots, the beat of their feet has sparked an impactful wave on the land of HBCUs across this nation. This wave is a momentum that I sincerely hope will never fade because the objective of HBCUs is to keep the waves in motion for generations of generations to come. This research project is dedicated to giving a voice to HBCU students who are on the frontline for social justice marching on despite the adversities in which our universities and our communities face. Additionally, this piece will feature women who are not strangers to pressing forward in times of triumph and looking flawless while doing so. If your answer was HBCU Queens, then you are correct. As a collective body the HBCU Queens class of 2020 charted unprecedented pathways to the polls to ensure that their student body and their communities showed up and showed out at the polls.
To be an HBCU Queen is an honor, privilege and a fundamental responsibility. However, to be crowned an HBCU Queen in the middle of a global pandemic is a unique experience within itself that none of us could have ever anticipated. In the fight for our voices to be heard, our positions to be valid in a world where Black women are silenced and shamed for being vocal about the injustices we face, as campus queens we bare the throne of that pain by transforming it into action, because the role of being a queen is much bigger than the individual.
Though many are called for this role, truly only a few queens chose to answer their calling to use their crowns as microphones to exude the courage, the faith and the fortitude to get their perspective university civically mobilized for the 2020 election. This research project will explore the work of civic engagement carried on by HBCU queens who chose to show up for the occasion they were called to be a significant part of.
Their stories may each begin differently, but ultimately their end goal is meticulously the same. Their collective goals were to enhance student civic engagement, awareness to voting policies and practices, but most importantly they aspired to be the face to bring students into the light of being civically motivated and mobilized beyond 2020 for future election cycles that are to come.
Queens in Action:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in these pictures the words say “HBCU Student Votes Matter!”
Pictured: Ashlee Davis, The 64th Miss Delaware State University
At Delaware State University, Miss DSU hosted an event entitled Reclaiming Our Vote. Through this event she orchestrated a voter registration drive for students on her campus.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU):
Pictured: Erika Nicole Johnson the 114th Miss FAMU
Erika Nicole Johnson utilized social media to send an important message to encourage students, faculty, and alumni to join her at the polls to cast their votes.
Grambling State University (GSU):
Pictured: Ashley Dabney, The 67th Miss Grambling State University
In finding a pathway to the polls, Miss Grambling State University organized a march to the polls amongst her student body.
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University (NC A&T)
Pictured: Mister and Miss NC A&T State University, Victor Solomon and Brianna Rascoe
At North Carolina A&T State University, their entire royal court participated in a community wide get out the vote event.
Saint Augustine’s University (SAU):
Pictured: Mister SAU, Alex Johnson and Miss SAU Heave Nahra
Mister and Miss SAU led their students in a march to the polls.
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU):
Pictured: 81st Miss WSSU Quieysha McDougle and 47th Mister WSSU Kendrick Pittman Jr.
At WSSU using the social media tag #RAMSVote the student government association organized a march to the polls which featured star basketball player and WSSU student Chris Paul.
Queens leading on key issues:
As a queen, you serve as a voice and an advocate for issues that matter to you and to your community. One HBCU Queen in the 2020-2021 Class of student leaders has gone above and beyond to exert her efforts in her reign as an advocate for protection of women’s reproductive rights. Miss Kaylan Turner, the 85th Miss Dillard University, used her platform as a microphone to tell students and community members to vote no on amendment 1 in the state of Louisiana. She participated in a march to the polls and passed out educational flyers to students to equip them with the knowledge they needed before they went into the voting booth. Beyond her reign she will continue to be a voice as a reproductive rights advocate.
Queens in Collaboration:
They say two Queens is better than one, but what about a Mister? This academic school year, without a doubt, introduced unimaginable obstacles, however with guidelines, creativity and collaboration queens across the country were still able to unite for get out the vote (GOTV) programs and events.
Miss SAU & NCCU & SHAW U
Pictured: 21st Mister NCCU Nijel Hawley-Newkirk, 70th Miss SAU Heave Nahra, and 78th Miss NCCU Imani Johnson, not pictured (Shaw University Campus Royalty)
The North Carolina HBCU Royalty hosted a march to the polls to encourage their student body to get out the vote.
Miss Jackson State (JSU) and Alcorn State (ASU):
Pictured: 81st Miss Jackson State University Daisia Davis and 94th Miss Alcorn State University Taea Jackson
These two Mississippi Queens collaborated to put on a voter education week of festivities. They were featured in a live conversation about the importance of HBCU students voting.
Why I wanted to write this article:
My passion for this article arose over the summer of 2020. After I was crowned the 78th Miss North Carolina Central University, I was engulfed into a sisterhood like no other. Reigning through a global pandemic is not easy and it is also something that no queen before us has lived through. Every single day my sisters, the queens at HBCUs, across the nation have given each other encouragement and a sense of security in knowing that we are not alone in this fight, and in the midst of uncertainty the HBCU Queens across the globe will truly make a sound.
In combining my greatest passion of civic engagement, voter mobilization and education with my role in the HBCU Queens circle, I have found myself in a state of awe as I reflect on all the HBCU Queens of 2020-2021 have accomplished to uplift their student body and the community to be engaged and empowered in this election cycle. In our role as Queens we have learned that it is not about the number of people we reach, instead it is about the lasting impact we leave even if that impact is left on just one person. This pandemic has required all of us as Campus Queens to elevate our visions and multiply our efforts to take up space in a digital world, to place further emphasis on the Black vote and the voices of HBCU Students who significantly contribute to the Black vote.
Moving Forward and What is Next?
Now that we have the election results and a Vice President who is an HBCU educated woman that looks like us, we are at an all-time high. We believe now more than ever that HBCUs are going to be seen in a more impactful light compared to years’ past. We will continue as alum of our institutions to be of service and work to enhance civic engagement in our communities because if not us then who?
Greater Diversity News (GDN)
I, Imani Johnson, have worked collectively with the Greater Diversity News Team to promote the student civic engagement and advocacy model since 2019. In our efforts to promote the student model this news platform has given me and other student leaders the opportunity to share our stories and voice our opinions about civic engagement and the ways in which it impacts our universities, our lives and our futures. Greater Diversity News has been a key contributor to all of my efforts on the campus of North Carolina Central University to promote enhancements for campus and community wide voter outreach initiatives as I continue to push forth for civic engagement on HBCU campuses to not only be a civic duty, but also a civic responsibility. This organization has enabled my creative efforts to be supported with their online news structure to inspire and uplift students at HBCUs across the nation. The vision of Greater Diversity News and the student Civic Engagement and Advocacy Committee (CEAC) model are a part of the vision that inspired me to write this article.
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR ORGANIZATION’S
VOTER MOBILIZATION EFFORTS
These suggestions should be modified as needed!
- Create a standing voter participation committee in your organization;
- Ask members to volunteer 8,16, 24 hours or more per election cycle;
- Volunteer through the NAACP or other nonpartisan organization;
- Have a member assigned to the NAACP (or other nonprofit) regular meetings to help keep your organization abreast of its civic engagement activities;
- Keep records of your organization’s volunteer hours.
This information is provided as a community service of Greater Diversity News (GreaterDiversity.com). Please support our voter registration initiatives by subscribing to GDN eNews and stay up-to-date on weekly events and news. Subscriptions to eNews are FREE!