NEW ORLEANS (January 28, 2021) – Dillard students were encouraged to embrace the intersection of higher learning and civic engagement by panelists in a virtual discussion Jan. 18 celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Four senior urban studies and public policy majors were featured in the discussion. Miss Dillard Kaylan Tanner of Los Angeles moderated the roundtable on “Liberty and Justice for Whom? College Activism in the Face of Civil Unrest,” one of two sessions held on the civil rights legend’s birthday.
The panelists included Student Government Association President Traelon Rodgers of Dallas; Toiya Smith of Forth Worth, Texas; and Jamya Robinson from Chicago.
Robinson, ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, described civic engagement as the action for the betterment of your people.
“Civic engagement can be voting, volunteering on local campaigns or actively working to see your people thrive,” said Robinson.
Smith, who said New Orleans is special because of its “close-knit” community, stressed the importance of being “a part of politics that impact you.”
“You can be one conversation away from someone in the mayor’s cabinet,” said Smith.
Smith is on the campaign team for candidate Gary Chambers, who is seeking to succeed former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond to represent the 2nd Second Congressional District seat. Richmond resigned to join President Biden’s new administration. The special election will be held March 20.
Panelists agreed the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol during Biden’s affirmation vote by the Senate left students questioning their civic duties.
Referring to the incident, Robinson said some people “are invested in the downfall our people,” adding that oppression remains a constant while tactics and the people using them are ever-changing. The cycle continues, she said.
Rodgers said, “This is AmeriKKKa.We need to mobilize, activate, go to the polls, hold our politicians accountable and be ready for what’s next.”
He referenced King’s quote, “It is easier to build strong children than to build broken men,” adding, “Children are the future.”
Rodgers said it is America’s responsibility to combat the school-to-prison pipeline and invest in the systems that allow children to think freely.
Smith agreed education is the foundation for everything.
“We have things that we need to unlearn and relearn because a lot of our history has been rewritten,” said Smith.