JSU to participate in Nat’l Constitution Day

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On Sept. 19, 2023, the Jackson State University Votes chapter of Mississippi Votes will concentrate on out-of-state students to ensure they know they have the right to vote in local, statewide, and national elections while attending college. The event is being held in conjunction with National Constitution Day. Activities kick off at noon with a voter registration drive at three campus venues: Student Center, Walter Payton Center, and F.D. Music Hall. Additionally, voter education with Politics on the Plaza and a candidates’ forum at 6:30 pm in the F.D. Music Hall Auditorium will be presented. 

On tap to make the learning experience fun-filled will be the Central Mississippi Blues Society Band, an open mic for poetry, and food trucks serving up the best Southern cuisine around. 

JSU Votes is attempting to emulate and expand the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) model, a coalition of national and regional organizations engaged in civil rights activities in Mississippi that launched Freedom Summer.  In 1964, thousands of local Black Mississippians and hundreds of Black and white students from out-of-state operated “Freedom Schools” and registered Black voters.  Special invitations have been sent to the NAACP College Division, Fannie Lou Hamer Pre-Law Political Science Organization, JSU Student Government Association, MS Democratic Party/Republican Party, MS Black Caucus, and the National Panhellenic Association.  

State GOP candidates Governor Tate Reeves and Brandon Presley, along with local Hinds, Madison, and Rankin County hopefuls looking for wins in the November general elections have been invited to participate.

Faculty advisor Jacobi Grant, J.D., explained the entire scope of the JSU Votes initiative: “We will address civic indifference, specifically among Millennials and Gen Z, through modern voter education and consistent awareness of the link between self-development and civic-engagement,” he said. 

According to Grant, the primary means to combat notions like: “politics is irrelevant” or “my vote doesn’t count” – and ultimately teach political participation – is by defining “democratic elitism” so the target citizens understand they are always afforded a genuine opportunity to engage politically and have an implied duty to do so.

“Democratic elitism is the philosophical concept of how America’s representative democracy works. It is the idea that because the population is so large, it would be unfeasible and inefficient for every citizen to physically partake in the democratic process. Therefore, citizens are afforded an electorate process to select elite citizens (candidates) from its population to physically partake in democracy on behalf of a population of people,” says Grant.

Student participants will receive a crash course on how African Americans were historically prohibited from influencing the election of elite citizens selected to partake in the democratic process in an effort to limit social change. 

“Following passage of the Civil Rights Act and as America has evolved from its segregationist practices, younger generations – especially African Americans – feel as if politics is not a viable means to effectuate change. Hence, Millennials and Gen Z must be provided an educational process that conceptualizes citizenship as more than individual rights to highlight the purpose of being engaged,” stated Grant.

“Research studies consistently show college students say they are not learning how to practice politics and see little purpose in becoming engaged because unity in problem solving is not a part of American politics,” he said. 

Grant continues, “Therefore, we will regularly shed light on Election Cycle calendars, specifically for Mississippi, but inclusive of other states with high populations on campus as well as influential national elections. In addition, we will raise awareness on the Hierarchy of Political Involvement, so our citizenry understands how and why spectator, transitional, and gladiatorial activities are what effectuates change.”

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JSU to participate in Nat’l Constitution Day

By Brinda Fuller Willis
September 18, 2023