Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have launched a tour of black colleges and universities around the country, hoping to mobilize students, listen to their concerns and encourage more of them to step up as leaders.
It’s one of several efforts by lawmakers and civic participation groups to spur a younger generation to become more politically engaged.
“One of the things that a lot of members have expressed real interest in is whether or not we can be a listening board for HBCUs or Millennials to make sure that their concerns and issues will be addressed by us,” said Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The long-term goal is to do (visits) in as many places as possible.”
Thompson’s district is one of several planned stops on the Congressional Black Caucus’ tour of historically black colleges and universities this year. The caucus kicked off the tour earlier this year with stops at Xavier University in Louisiana, Morehouse College in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
The next stop is Morgan State University in Baltimore on May 1. Other stops are planned for later this spring and fall.
Caucus members and others say one of the best places to reach the next generation of black leaders is on the campuses of HBCUs. There are more than 100 in the country, most of them in the South.
“It’s time that the national folk value what they bring to the table,” said Tommy Dortch Jr., founder of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation Inc. “I don’t think enough people nationally value what these HBCUs continue to do, when you look at the majority of doctors and lawyers and engineers who come out of these institutions.”
The alumni foundation will wrap up the spring session of its “legacy lecture series” on Tuesday at Dillard University in New Orleans. The lectures held at different HBCU campuses focus on issues including voter participation, the civil rights movement and financial literacy.
“It’s really about having an intergenerational conversion with students to talk about … the importance of voting,” said Melanie Campbell, a guest lecturer and president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
The goal, she continued, is “to share the importance of becoming more civically engaged, making sure your voice is heard and answering their questions and listening to some of the ideas they have.”
The coalition’s Black Youth Vote program will host a conference this fall in Washington, D.C.
Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has made reaching out to young people a priority for the 49-member group of mostly Democrats.
“If we’re going to create a more perfect union for black families, we have to listen, involve, and mobilize young black leaders — and ground zero for many of them is an HBCU,” said Richmond, a Morehouse graduate, in a statement announcing the HBCU tour.
Rickey Hill, chairman of the political science department at Jackson State University, one of the planned stops on the tour, said the effort could help spur more activism among students.
Source: USA Today | Deborah Barfield Berry