Black History Month wraps up with discussions on voting, campus experiences


CW / Madison Ely

Javon Williams | @JavonCW, Jeffrey Kelley | @jeffkellyjr

Over the span of this month, University of Alabama faculty/staff and student organizations have expressed the importance of voting and black history. 

With the 2021 presidential election fast approaching, this year’s upcoming census and United States primaries, UA’s faculty/staff are emphasizing the impact, importance, and need for African American voters participation. 

This year’s theme, titled “African Americans and the Vote,” featured events ranging from campus tours led by professor Hilary Green, which highlight historically black landmarks, as well as campus dialogues, group discussions for black women and black history movies. 

Black Voters Matter

Last week, on Feb. 20, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted the co-founder and executive director of Black Votes Matter (BVM), Cliff Albright. 

“[African Americans] have been led to believe that ‘power’ is a bad word,” Albright said. “Like it’s taboo, like it’s something we don’t deserve to have.”

BVM is an organization that was created to “increase power in our communities” when it comes to having a political voice. The mission of BVM is to get black students to realize that they do have the power and that their voice does matter in the voting polls. BVM also advocates for early voting and policies affiliated with all aspects of equity.

“I feel as though it is important to inform black students that their vote matters,” said Daja Broughton, a freshman majoring in athletic training and a Black Student Union member. “I think it’s good to encourage them to vote because it also makes us feel as though we are just important.” 

According to the United States Census Bureau, the share of black voters in every age group decreased by 1% in the presidential election in 2016.

If we all show up, our voice will be heard,” Farrah Sanders, a senior majoring in news media, said. “What we say will hold weight. We ultimately want them to know the numbers are on your side, leaders are on your side. We’re not just the future. We’re also a bit of the present.”

Black Girls Rise

Black Girls Rise, a power-building panel hosted by URGE UA, was held Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Ferguson Heritage Room. 

The panel created a space for five African American women, three seniors and two professors to take the stage and discuss their experiences on campus, specifically in academia.

“The Black Girls Rise event for me was very refreshing,” Marquette Jones, a panelist and creative media instructor, said.

Jones said the discussion during the panel was affirming for many of the women of color in the room.

“It is really important for black women to see themselves in an elevated position talking about issues that they can relate to,” said Kenya Harris, the panel’s moderator and a senior majoring in political science and African American studies. 

Jones said she sees discussions like this creating a stronger community amongst women of color and an allyship with other women on campus.  

“I think it is interesting to note that it was hosted by a predominately white feminist organization, URGE UA,” Harris said.

She said URGE has been making “valiant efforts” to let black voices be heard instead of allowing white allies to speak for black people.

“They’ve been more about pushing black people to those places to talk about their experiences, and I think that is very important,” Harris said.

Looking Forward

To continue conversations of agency, community and representation, a few more events will be held before the end of the month. 

There will be two University-sponsored Black History Month events on Thursday, Feb 27. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the “Dr. Ethal H. Hall: African American Heritage Month Colloquium” will be held in the Bryant Conference Center. At 6 p.m., students can also attend a town hall discussion on policing and campus communication notifications, which will be held in John England Jr. Hall. 

Additionally, at noon on Thursday, The University of Alabama School of Law’s chapter of the American Constitution Society, the Voting Rights Institute, the Campaign Legal Center and the Black Student Union will host a voter suppression panel in Moot Court Room 140.