Executive Director of "Democracy Matters" Visits BSU
By Auburn Mann
During homecoming week, many organizations assert their presence on campus through their opening activities for the year. Specifically, Democracy Matters has begun its program for its second year in at Bowie State University. For the 2008-2009 school year the group was led by Nayonna Wright, who is the current vice president of the Student Government Association. This year it is headed by Leslie Hall who also holds the positions of president for the newly founded College Democrats and chief of staff for SGA.
Democracy Matters is a non-partisan college campus based organization that was initially founded in 2001 by collaboration between NBA basketball player and activist Adonal Foyle and his parents Dr. Joan and Jay Mandle, both professors at Colgate University. The organization has expanded and currently boasts more than 45 branches in colleges and universities nationwide operating under the slogan "Change Elections, Change America." The slogan is drawn from the group's mission statement: "To strengthen democracy by first training young people how to be effective grassroots organizers and advocates, and second, supporting full public financing of election campaigns ("fair-elections") and other pro-democracy reforms."
Fortunately, these words also correspond to their actions. On Oct. 15 Dr. Joan Mandle, organization co-founder and executive director, visited Bowie State University. Speaking to a sociology class while on campus, she discussed victimization, the lack of legitimacy in the criminal justice system, racial profiling and incarceration rates among the nation's African-American males. "The justice system like many other elements in our society," she said, "is politically driven."
Mandle also mentioned a major project the organization called "Clean Elections," which advocates for a system of campaign funding for those individuals in the political arena who aren't as financially stable as their counterparts. Mandle said she planned to spend a portion of her visit to the D.C. metropolitan area lobbying Congress for passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, which she said "will hopefully bring elections away from the clutches of big business, private donors, and other forms of corruptions and back into the hands of people the way they were originally designed to function."
Although, much of what Democracy Matters advocates may seem only to include "pro-democracy" and reforms, the group is highly motivated in its efforts to encourage young people to become more involved in the political process, Mandle said. There are various paid internships offered to student members through the organizations college- and university-based branches as well as volunteer opportunities for high school students.
By acquainting the youth with the essentials of politics and government, organization official say they are preparing young people to take an active role in engaging the political system.