Fraternity works to inform citizens, empower vote

Events will continue until election day Nov. 2.
Mizzou College Republicans Chairman Brett Dinkins debates with MU College Democrats members Saba Sahlu and Matt Tharp on Thursday in Allen Auditorium. The event, hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha, covered political issues such as Proposition C and health care.

Since the 1930s, Alpha Phi Alpha has integrated the principles of the nationally recognized program “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People” into its chapter mission and community outreach activities. This year, MU’s chapter sought to extend the major components of the program into a string of events aimed at educating black youth on the importance of voting.

“Alpha Phi Alpha wants the African American community, as well as the rest of the community, to know the important issues going on in our world and to know the politicians on the ballot,” Alpha Phi Alpha member Brian Hamilton said. “We don’t want people going in to the voting booth half-cocked. We want well-educated citizens.”

In collaboration with the Legion of Black Collegians, Alpha Phi Alpha has invited all MU’s student population to participate in the events of the “2010 Election Series: A Voteless People is a Hopeless People” leading up to Nov. 2, election day.

“During the last week of September, we held voter registration tables outside the new student center and registered over 100 new voters,” Hamilton said. “On Oct. 4, a representative from Missouri ProVote came to speak about Proposition C, health care reform and how health care reform affects students.”

A debate held Thursday night by the LBC and Alpha Phi Alpha outlined many politically relevant issues.

“Within the debate, we outlined Carnahan and Blunt’s views so voters can be informed on both sides,” said Whitney Williams, political chairwoman for the Legion of Black Collegians. “There is political apathy in the African American community, and we want to energize the masses.”

Democrat debaters senior Saba Sahlu and freshman Matt Tharp, as well as Republican debater Mizzou College Republicans Chairman Brett Dinkins, presented arguments concerning health care, Proposition C, energy independence, national security and education.

“I feel like the debate provided a successful overview of relevant issues today,” Dinkins said. “Hopefully people will be more motivated to research on their own time. Hopefully, they’ll be more motivated to get out and explore the issues we talked about.”

“Compelling arguments were presented from both sides,” Tharp said. “I’m sure that people who were once in the middle now have adequate information to cast an informed vote either way.”

The debate Thursday night was the last scheduled event before election day.

“Our motivation for these events is to get people to come out and get educated,” Hamilton said. “The more people we reach out to, the bigger impact we can have, and Alpha Phi Alpha wants to reach out to the most amount of people possible.”

This is not the only year the organization has interacted with the campus community through the “A Hopeless People is a Voteless People” program. In the 2008 election series, Alpha Phi Alpha focused its same goals around the presidential election.

“We’ve seen a lack of motivation within the African American community and within our age group concerning politics,” Alpha Phi Alpha President Kazi Ngwenyama said. “In the 2008 presidential election, however, there was a good turnout. We want to keep that going in future elections.”

Alpha Phi Alpha will continue its efforts to involve the campus community in the elections until Nov. 2.

“Knowing what’s going on and being educated is extremely important,” Ngwenyama said. “It’s one thing to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but when people inform you in an unbiased manner, it makes things easier. Our goal as a fraternity is to benefit the community as a whole.”

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