Archive for the ‘Speeches’ Category
The ongoing redistricting discussion continues in Norfolk, with City Council voting on one of two different plans tonight. Here’s my comments to Council on the matter:
In a perfect world, representatives of the city of Norfolk would be chosen not based on race, but on their ability alone. Of course, we know that we don’t live in that perfect world. Because of the activism of generations before my birth, as well as the sins of others in that generation, a candidate or nominee’s race is often considered when election, appointment, or redistricting time comes around.
Tonight’s discussion of the “compromise plan” is only possible because an ill-informed public, often too caught up in the goings-on of Washington and Richmond, has enabled some on this Council to believe that their will and their preservation of power is all that matters. That’s our failure as citizens to hold up our end of the unwritten contract between the governors and the governed. It’s what allowed certain members of this council-who’ve gotten away with it for years-to print notices about redistricting on days when papers are barely read, and schedule hearings for it at times when many people are still stuck in traffic.
Yet out of the single public hearing on redistricting came a glimpse of a plan that goes far beyond the mere preservation of power.
The Jordan alternative seeks to develop a ward system that is more reflective of the city’s racial makeup. Under his plan, the city’s council would move from a 4-3 racial split, or 5-3 when the mayor is included, to the possibility of an equal 4-4 split. The Jordan alternative could also move us closer to the day when the segregation of racial voting power is irrelevant, as this plan shows to the Justice Department that our city has moved further away from the dark days of racial discrimination.
Yet this council is unwilling to consider it…and has given every reason possible not to, and has used every possible scheme to keep citizens in the dark about the Jordan plan. First, we geard that one of the wards in the plan was .1% short of a requirement from the Justice Department; that percentage amounts to about 200-300 people. Then, at the last Council meeting, no comments from the public were heard on redistricting at all. And finally tonight, the “discussion” of the Jordan plan will take place after the vote on this compromise…which means if the compromise is approved, the Jordan alternative won’t get a discussion at all.
Members of Council, it’s your responsibility to consider the Jordan alternative, beyond holding a single hearing on its merits and then burying it under tonight’s agenda. You’ve been given a plan that not only reflects the makeup of our city, but presents an opportunity to say-and show-to the nation that we are truly better than our past. You have a duty, far beyond working toward your reelection, to consider the Jordan alternative.
A little over a month ago, I was elected by my fellow students to be the Student Government Association president for 2011-2012 at TCC’s Norfolk campus (proof that a black Republican Tea Partier can get elected in Norfolk). What follows is my inauguration speech (with apologies to Gov. McDonnell for the somewhat obvious influence):
Here at the Norfolk Campus, we are exceptional. We’re an urban campus, located in an area that’s going through many changes. We’re the first community college in Virginia to have a student center. And we’re the only campus in the TCC system where minority students make up a majority of our enrollment.
The stories of our arrival here vary greatly. Some are single parents, hoping to provide more for their children than they had. Others are veterans returning from multiple overseas deployments. We have students taking classes after being incarcerated, working to become productive members of civil society., as well as high school students for whom our college is the first step in this journey called life.
We can take pride in the stories that unite us as students, and be proud of the changes taking place around us. But there are other things that compel us to action.
Our student center, four months into the year, remains unfinished and unopened. Uncertainty within our federal government places the dream of a college degree in jeopardy for those who receive financial aid. Many of the restaurants that we used to eat at while we’re here have closed. Many of us will soon enter a job market that has no jobs. For those of us who remain and rely on public transportation to get here, changes to the buses and the oft-delayed light rail system will affect us as well.
However, in the midst of these changes and our individual circumstances, opportunity surrounds us. As campus leaders, it is my responsibility, as well as that of the other SGA officers and senators, to make sure that these opportunities are harnessed.
Being students, it is important that our academics come first; after all, that’s why we’re here. Your SGA is a resource to help you succeed. If you need help with a class, please let us know so we can do everything in our power to assist. Your academic success is directly tied to ours as leaders, as well as to the success of all students. When one of us excels, we all do.
Your SGA is your voice to the faculty and college staff. When you have complaints, of any kind, please bring them to us so that we can resolve them. Also, come to our meetings and get involved in our business-because it’s your money that we’re spending. We are your opportunity to determine the future of our campus. We’re challenging you to take a proactive role in determining that future. As you begin to communicate more with us, you’ll see us communicating more with you as well.
As campus leaders, it’s not enough for us to only meet and make decisions; it’s incumbent on us to bring opportunities to you as well. From events serving the community to preparing you for life and employment after you graduate, your SGA will take a role in helping improve your station in life. We’ll provide the tools, but it’s up to you to take advantage of them.
And as we enjoy these new opportunities, we’re going to enjoy ourselves as well. Most of us are here for anywhere between four to six hours a day. While you’re here, take advantage of the events planned by both SGA and Student Activities. They’re a good way to briefly escape from the stresses of academic life.
Today we, your Student Government Association, ask you to join us as we create a campus of opportunity for all students. As we celebrate our exceptionalism and perseverance, we must also remember that timeless principle found in scripture; that those things we do for our brothers and sisters here are done not only in service to them, but to our Creator above.
We will help our fellow students, because it is right to do so.
We will work together to get results and solve problems, because it is our responsibility to do so.
And we will work to provide opportunities for all, because it is our desire to do so.