Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tackles Redistricting, Emphasizes Exercising the Right to Vote

In the Georgia Lewis Theater, the Honors College hosted a panel discussion on the negative effect redistricting currently has on voting in America on the afternoon of CCC’s last football game of the season against Holmes Community College. After holding a voter registration drive during Welcome Week, the Honors College students were provided more information on issues surrounding the election of political candidates favored by the majority.

Panel Discussion Tackles Redistricting, Emphasizes Exercising the Right to Vote

Press Release from Coahoma Community College Public Relations; (662) 621-4057 - Melody Dixon

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Wed Oct 31, 2018

Panel Discussion

In the Georgia Lewis Theater, the Honors College hosted a panel discussion on the negative effect redistricting currently has on voting in America on the afternoon of CCC’s last football game of the season against Holmes Community College. After holding a voter registration drive during Welcome Week, the Honors College students were provided more information on issues surrounding the election of political candidates favored by the majority.

Dianna Freelon-Foster, the former mayor of Grenada who was the first African-American woman elected to lead the city, moderated a talk on the subject of protecting our votes as citizens of small cities despite barriers to fairness in voting. Panelists of the event included Kahlil Johnson, a demographer and activist from Holmes County, Mississippi Rep. Orlando Paden and Brianna James, an Honors College student and fellow of the Aspen Institute Young Leaders Fellowship program, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Preceding the panelists’ talk on how citizens can get involved in counteracting local and state governing officials’ unfair practice of controlling election results, Johnson asked for the participation of all of the audience members for a demonstration explaining the process of redistricting. He started off with a history of the battle southern blacks fought in the 1960s.

Jim Crow laws utilized a literacy test to prevent blacks from voting until a march on Alabama’s Edmund Pettis Bridge prompted the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Johnson said the test asked puzzling questions like ‘How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?’

“A lot of times adults were sent to school up until about eighth grade,” said Johnson.

Johnson serves on the democratic executive committee for Holmes County. He said that redistricting comes from vote results and the census that occurs every 10 years. Governing officials make sure they are re-elected by redrawing district lines, preventing other candidates from winning.

“When they’re redistricting, it’s important that you vote, so you’ll know they are making the best decisions based on your community,” Johnson added.

James, Phi Theta Kappa president and biochemistry major at Coahoma Community College, gave her perspective. She spoke on the reason every eligible vote is required in the upcoming election on Nov. 6.

“Being in Mississippi, it being a Republican state, there are things we have to look into further,” said James.

“We have to pay attention to things that we’re voting on, the people we’re electing and putting in office. And making sure our people, our friends, our family get out and vote. And if they don’t, lend some knowledge on them.”

Paden, a CCC and Alcorn State University graduate, has gotten a bill passed to get Coahoma Agricultural High School changed to Coahoma Early College High School. As a state official, he offered his insight on issues including gerrymandering and other aspects preventing a successful legislative body.

“Always do your research on legislators,” he advised. “Ask their ideologies.”

Foster urged the Honors College students to look into absentee voting when they move on to a four-year institution. Students took part in the discussion, wanting to know if they would be able to get a precinct established for the CCC campus. Foster responded by telling them that their persistent efforts in communicating with political leaders would get them their wish.

“When you get engaged, you become demand citizens,” said Foster, who played a part in Grenada’s high school integration as a student. “You guys have the power to make things change.”

Johnson stressed that all young adults who have been raised in Mississippi communities should not move out of state, but some should stay behind to aid in maintaining their hometowns. The discussion included comments on the need for politicians who are willing to work toward improving conditions in our communities.

“We’re being so trusting,” Johnson said. “At some point we’ve got to say, ‘We respect you for what you’ve done. But what have you done for me lately?’”

James, who graduated from Coahoma County High School, suggested that students help their peers and classmates develop a sense of pride for their community and country so that they will realize that voting is important.

“In life, to have a valid say so is to go out and vote,” says Karinton Johnson, the president of the Honors College. “Although we have heard plenty of rumors saying our vote does not count, it is not true. Why should we suppress a right we were born with?”

“As a Tiger Nation leader, I feel that it is important, as well as an obligation, to educate my peers on the importance of voting. A major way of doing so is through a clear understanding of what voting does to us and how it is handled.”