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Digital generation thinks politics, economics
UFuture summit focuses on youth involvement
 
Published Tuesday, September 4, 2012 8:52 pm
by De’Shauna Selby and Laurie D. Willis

The Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Johnson C. Smith University hosted “UFuture- A summit for innovative young thinkers” August 4 in JCSU’s Brayboy Gymnasium.


The interactive forum was designed for students to ask questions and address concerns to the 20 panelists, which included actors Hill Harper, Alfred Woodard, Nicole Ari Parker and several members of Congress.


The CBC organized the forum to coincide with the Democratic National Convention to encourage more political involvement among young African Americans.


Students from 20 colleges, including Livingstone, Davidson and Spelman Colleges as well as UNC Charlotte attended. Students who couldn’t make the summit, including historically black Howard University and Morehouse College, participated through video chat live, while others sent questions through email or text messages.


Becoming politically involved, financial management and entrepreneurship were among the many questions asked by students.
Being a registered voter covered a big portion of the summit. Panelists extended a question to students about what their universities are doing to motivate their students to vote and get registered.


Anika Cobb, a JCSU senior, responded with “we must engage, engage, engage. We (at JCSU) have Democracy Matters, which goes out and registers people to vote. We have Run DNC program which I am the student coordinator for. We work very hard by ‘digi-telling’ stories by using our smart phones and cameras to tell our personal stories about West Charlotte to make sure we know about the issues,” she said. “It’s so important to engage because if I don’t care about the issues because they don’t seem to affect me, why should I vote?”


Organizers shared that 500,000 African Americans are not registered to vote in North Carolina, which could play a vital role in the direction of this election.


“I would hope that none of you here in this room are among those people!” said U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte.


Freda C. Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer and executive vice president at Pfizer Inc., expressed the need for more African Americans in the medical field to enhance the coverage of African Americans. “I believe we, as a community, need to step up,” she said. “My husband always said ‘people don’t change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat.’ From a health care standpoint, is it hot in here or do we only see just the light?”


Anthony Scott, a junior biology major at Livingstone, also attended.


“It was very informative, and we got a lot of information letting us know what’s going to happen if President Obama does not get re-elected,” said Scott of Cades, S.C. “They told us what to expect in the future with respect to technology, and they also spoke to the importance of staying abreast of current issues.”


Colleague Shari Albury, a junior mathematics education major from Nassau, Bahamas, said she, too, enjoyed the summit.


“It was very enlightening about different issues that are going on in the United States today with respect to education and also about jobs and student loans,” Albury said. “A lot of the speakers gave some good tips for students in terms of being able to pay off our loans when we graduate and other opportunities for getting jobs.”


Desiree Salandy, a senior history major at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., said the summit was a positive experience.


“I met students from a lot of different schools, and some celebrities, and it influenced me to do better and to start becoming more serious about my career,” said Salandy of Bronx, N.Y. “I’m going to go out and spread the word for people to get registered to vote.”


The Congressional Black Caucus Institute is a non-partisan organization; however, several speakers made it clear they support President Obama’s re-election bid.


“There’s a political party that wants to reduce Pell grants,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. “At the same time this same political party wants to cut … discretionary spending. It really and truly affects the affordability of higher education as it pertains to each of you. Please pay attention to this because it is a serious piece of President Obama’s campaign.”


Panelists and participants encouraged students to keep touch with the CBC and ask questions through their available social networks.
“(The 2008 campaign) was historic but 2012 is personal!” said Harper, who attended Harvard Law School with Obama.

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