Students converge on Selma

Published 10:26 pm Saturday, November 1, 2008

Students from Tuskegee and Alabama State universities converged on Selma on Saturday as part of the NAACP’s “Think Hard, Vote Hard” bus tour.

The tour started in South Carolina last week, and Alabama was its second leg. The Tuskegee and Alabama State students’ stop in Selma came during a day that began in Clanton and extended to Demopolis. Other college students from college NAACP chapters around Alabama visited varying parts of the state to raise voter awareness.

“Given the history of Selma and Dallas county, the right to vote was a hard-fought battle, and we would not want the work of those who fought that battle to be in vain,” said Selma-Dallas County NAACP President Kobi Little. “We’re hoping that people will put voting as a priority for Tuesday.”

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But Selma’s role in the civil rights movement was not the only reason the tour rolled into town. For a city that played a key role in achieving equal voting rights, Selma has traditionally had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the state.

“We’ve identified several targeted precincts that have had previous lower voter turnout and decided that these would be the precincts that we would come and do a last minute ‘get out the vote’ opportunity,” said Wendy Hamilton, public relations specialist for the NAACP’s national headquarters in Baltimore. “It’s such a historic opportunity in terms of the participation of young people and new voters, first time voters. And we wanted for the national headquarters to find a way to engage the young people.”

That’s why several of the students turned out to knock on doors on Saturday. The students that traipsed the streets of G.W.C. Homes near Brown Chapel A.M.E. felt a sense of duty to disprove a perceived stereotype that students do not have an interest in politics.

“We’re reaching out to people in our community that are underprivileged, and we need to get out word to vote,” said Joseph Brown, a Kappa Alpha Psi member at Tuskegee. “I believe it’s a big thing that we as students are coming to the community to make an impact on them.”

Though most local participants who welcomed the student-filled buses were decidedly pro-Democrat, participants made it a point not to endorse either of the two leading presidential candidates — Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Their goal was simply to encourage people to vote.

“We’re hoping to make sure everyone in this community is motivated to go out and vote so we can make this election one of the most historic elections in America,” said

Tuskegee NAACP President Keosha Forrest. “It doesn’t matter who you vote for — vote for Obama or McCain — just so long as you get out there and vote.

The goal of bus tour is to get into communities and knock on doors to raise voter awareness. Many in the area did not answer their doors, but the handful that did were receptive to the students.

In the eyes of Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine student Jessica Bailey, that alone makes the effort worthwhile.

“If we can just convince just one person, that’s better than one. One is an improvement.”