Speaking to a crowd at Fort Valley State University, Angela Rye led a conversation with students about activism, action, and leveraging their collective power beyond the polls. A political strategist, advocate, and commentator Rye stressed the need for students to vote in the upcoming elections and civic engagement.
The Q&A section of the program was most interesting with Rye taking a different approach to answering student questions. Instead of giving them the answers to specific questions about political engagement, addressing wealth inequality, and requests for action steps Rye walked each student through a quick issue spotting exercise. She then asked who else was interested in the particular topic, and had the join the student raising the question. By the end of each question, Rye had created ad hoc working groups for each issue raised.
We have long seen the potential of students to lead change-oriented action. Rye shined a light on the potential in nearly every student in the auditorium. She further encouraged students to consider their activism and the way they live their lives. For Rye, activism is not an optional activity but something that is a moral imperative for our success as a community.
Reflecting on Rye’s presence at Fort Valley and engaging voters in marginalized communities, Randy Armon Goss stated that his “main thought about not overlooking area like mine is consistency, it can’t be a one-stop and that’s it, there has to be follow up and accountability.” Heavily involved in statewide organizing through the Young Democrats of Georgia, Randy said everyone needs to “agitate your block, your friends, your co-workers or someone else will.”
Students across the country area leading town halls building on the success from March for Our Lives. They are organizing on college campuses and combating injustice in every corner. While we rush to support the youth-led effort that has grown out of March for Our Lives, let’s not forget the countless student groups across college campuses who are ripe for organizing.
As we “power to the polls” and beyond, we must remember that pocketbook issues and issues of systemic injustice are rooted in parallel systems of inequality. Building the organization to win and excite and engage potential voters requires an understanding rooted in historical reflection. Rye said, “Where do we go from here has to be illuminated by how did we get here.”