BY JAMES HARPER
Dr. Edison Jackson, interim president of Bethune-Cookman University, said the estimated 2,000 students marching to the polls on Monday would be called the unsung heroes of future generations.
Jackson marched with the students to the early voting site at the Volusia County Library at City Island on Magnolia Avenue.
“It’s about civic responsibility. Don’t forget about those who struggled to make it possible for us to be here. There are so many people who are unsung heroes who made it possible for us to be here today,” Jackson said.
“We are teaching and encouraging the students they have the freedom to experience their right,” he said, noting that the students who participated in the march were excused from their classes that day.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is “skipping with joy,’’ said the granddaughter of B-CU’s founder.
Dr. Evelyn Bethune said, “She (Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune) was carrying a picket sign when she was in her 70s. She would have been here today. This is what she worked for – for us to have the ability to exercise our civic responsibility without oppression.”
Bethune marched with the students. Though she was filled with happiness with the students’ participation, she was disappointed in the reaction of some of those driving by them as they marched.
“People got out of their cars while we were marching and had their thumbs down at us.
There is still an unrest and uneasiness when White people see large numbers of African-Americans congregating,” Bethune added.
Students speak out
BCU student Cierra Robertson said she voted on Monday because she was worried “Mitt Romney is someone who is trying to decrease our financial aid.”
“It’s important for us to vote for President Obama. Some White people underestimate us because of our color. Think we don’t follow politics. The Black vote will make a difference this time,” Robertson said.
Naquane Kine said this it was his first time voting.
“This is one of the most important elections. If Romney gets in, there will be drastic changes. I watched debates. Romney was lying to the people. I know this is part of politics.
Obama is trying to help us. He has a plan,” said Kine.
Student Lewis Goodley said it was important for him to help choose the local politicians.
“I feel like I am informed enough to make a decision. It’s important for me to vote locally because I’ll be here another two years and I want to make sure the college is supported,” Goodley said.
Candidates met students
B-CU professor Dr. Walter Fordham, one of the organizers of the march, said the university hosted a forum in which all the local candidates had an opportunity to meet and speak to the students. He noted it was important for the students to know who makes decisions on the future of the university, which is located in the heart of the city’s Black community.
“We should vote for the best candidate who will support B-CU’s growth, development and expansion,” he said.
Prior to the students arriving at the City Island Library, the only early voting location in the city, an elections worker said registered voters had been trickling in that day. The students left the campus at 9:30 a.m. and began arriving at the library around 10.
By 7 p.m., when the polls had closed, 1,805 people had voted at the site – primarily B-CU students.
Fordham said he was proud of the turnout.
“It’s a great representation of our students after our efforts to register them to vote and educating them on the importance of participating in the process,” he said.
Fordham said 1,130 students were registered in recent voter registration drives. The school’s population is approximately 3500, many of who, already were registered to vote.
There were 1,300 new students enrolled this school year.
He also noted that the Republican legislators’ efforts to suppress the vote was their motivation to increase the number of students registered to vote.
Unlike some other states where a state issued ID is required to vote, college students can use their school IDs to vote in Florida.
“That provided great opportunity for many students to participate,” Fordham explained.