FVSU panel discusses race after presidential election

FORT VALLEY — The auditorium in the C.W. Pettigrew Center was packed Wednesday with faculty, staff and students interested in hearing what prominent national figures had to say about the election of President Obama and its aftermath.

“We, during this time and age, are in a place where there is a lot of inspiration as a result of the election of our president,” Jeff Johnson, host of Black Entertainment Television’s “The Truth” told the audience. “That has not translated to grass-root organization or strategy.”

The National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation held its lecture, titled “Decision ’08: Now What?” on the Fort Valley State University campus. For nearly two hours, the audience engaged in dialogue with the panelists on topics ranging from financial aid to racial profiling.

Panelists included television Judge Glenda Hatchett, actor and philanthropist Emmanuel Lewis and Thomas W. Dortch, chairman of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. Johnson served as moderator.

Wednesday’s discussion was part of the Legacy Lecture Series, an avenue to get students and the general population to focus on issues such as high school dropout rates, economic development and financial aid for college students. The Lecture Legacy Series is held at colleges across the country. Wednesday marked the first time the event was held on the FVSU campus.

University president Larry Rivers delivered greetings for the occasion.

“This is an important series in that it focuses on issues related to the African-American community,” Rivers said.

From there, the lecture turned into what Johnson promised to be a “lively and proactive discussion” as most of the panelists focused on finding solutions to issues that have plagued the black race for decades and getting beyond the historic euphoria brought about from Obama’s election and inauguration.

Dortch, who founded the lecture series, talked about having a black man in the White House and the perception that it would automatically allow blacks greater access to opportunities through the government. Dortch said that is not the case and individuals have to keep moving forward.

“We have to be just as vigilant. We have to fight and we have to demand access is granted,” Dortch said.

Many questions to the panel centered around whether black people have translated their enthusiasm into action. The students on the panel said they have.

Chadrick Mance, pointed out that through the voter registration drive on the Morehouse campus prior to the election, he said he helped students take the first critical step in a democracy.

“It first starts with enabling students to voice their opinions,” said Mance, Morehouse student government president.

Fort Valley student government president Byron Doyle said he has witnessed an increase on the FVSU campus in student’s willingness to learn through greater class attendance and choosing education over socializing.

“Everybody is maturing and realizing that the world is real,” Doyle said. “It’s the things we do now that will determine the things we do in the future.”

For Miss Fort Valley State Shanoria Morgan, change and action was important before the election. She spoke on her successful effort to get book funding allocated through a prestigious campus scholarship.

“It didn’t take a black president or a crown on my head to know that I had to do what I had to do to fight for change,” Morgan said.

Lewis, known to many in the audience as the child star on the 1980s television show “Webster,” brought a serious message of black people working hard toward their own successes as many have done in the past.

“We can give excuses all day long, but there has to be some accountability and that has to start with the man in the mirror,” Lewis told the audience.

Hatchett emphasized the need for black people to become engaged at a young age and maintain it into adulthood. She also spoke on the need for black people to look closer to home than the White House for their solutions, especially on the federal level.

“We all know Obama is in the White House, but who is your state representative? Who is your state senator?” Hatchett said.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.