Updated: Jan 16, 2019
In light and celebration of Salisbury University’s broad span of diversity, the community was brought together by the common belief that we all have a voice and that representation matters.
Various organizations, including the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, National Council of Negro Women, Sexuality and Gender Awareness and Women Inspiring Never-Ending Connections, came out to the event to ensure that various unrepresented groups could understand that their opinion matters.
The event included a station that allowed anyone to register to vote, as well as stations for each of the organizations to represent our diverse campus.
Delegate Mary Washington was chosen as the event’s guest speaker due to her diverse nature and her willingness to empower others to be engaged in the world around them.
Washington has spent over 20 years working for Maryland’s 43rd District as a legislator, advocate and student of public policy. In 2010, she made history when she became the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in Maryland – and only the second such state legislator in the country.
Program Coordinator for Multicultural Student Services Richard Potter acclaimed Washington for her ability to connect with various diverse groups.
“We have a female who’s in our state house who students can look up to see that if this is attainable from her, I can do that as well,” Potter said.
And to the individuals who are reluctant to register to vote, Potter’s advice is to get out there because “Your voice can be heard. For individuals that want change at our local level, state level, this is the first step in doing that is making sure that you vote.”
In her speech, Washington conveyed the belief that it is our differences that ultimately bring us together.
“It’s the diversity of experience that makes our community strong and we are so fortunate to have that,” Washington said.
Washington talked about various topics from her upbringing to her sexuality to the important changes she was able to make through voicing her opinion and passing bills to mold our world into a better place.
“It can feel often that when you are in a situation where you represent a minority you bear a heavy load and are carrying the weight of being a part of a certain group whether it be your sexuality, your race, your gender…” Washington said. “I’m here to tell you that there will come a time where it will be a joy and it is a joy to be different and to be who you are.”
Abigail Horton, administrative coordinator for the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, was running the table regarding voter registration, and she emphasized the necessity for students to get involved in politics young because its impact is long-lasting.
Horton emphasized the importance of students getting active in their community and registering to vote due to its utter impact on our future.
“This is not a dress rehearsal,” Horton said. “You are a citizen right now, and what your community looks like … a lot of that is influenced by who’s in charge politically.”
Horton highlighted the direct impact on students as she explained that voting can determine things revolving around tuition, student loans and residence life.
“Being an active citizen, you are forming good habits, and you are going to be living with the decisions politicians make now for a lot longer than older people so it is in your interest to vote and make your voice heard,” Horton said.
Senior and President of the National Council of Negro Women Tiara Broome came out to represent the community of African-American women and point out the lack of representation that they have in the world of politics.
“We felt it was important to come out to Representation Matters because there’s such a small amount of African-American women representing in Congress, and any type of legislative branch, so we are here to show that it is important to get involved,” Broome said.
Another diverse population that represents a portion of our campus is the LGBTQ community. President and founder of Sexuality and Gender Awareness at SU Thomas Mannion was a strong supporter of the event in seeing that the gay community is strongly affected by the decisions made by the government.
“We are here at the Representation Matters event because representation truly does matter, especially for marginalized groups on campus and in the real world, in your life, every day,” Mannion said. “Queer people don’t go out and vote and they should because it’s their lives on the line and it’s their rights and it’s things that can be stripped away.”
Graduate Assistant for the LGBTQYA and Multicultural Student Services Nyasha Wills explained that, in her eyes, the event was important for two specific reasons.
“One, a lot of people don’t get involved and don’t see their importance in voting, so at this event, students get the opportunity to see how voting matters,” Wills said. “Also, we want to make sure that all individuals, from people of colors, to the poor community, queer individuals, people with disabilities, first-generation students – they all have a voice and we want to showcase that tonight.”
Women’s Programs Graduate Assistant for Multicultural Student Services Mary Prunty found the event to be a celebration of diversity.
“It’s important for everyone to be represented in leadership roles, and part of feeling represented means voting and representation does matter,” Prunty said. “Representation matters because you matter.”
Prunty went on to say how ecstatic she was about the turnout of faculty, staff, organizations and students.
“There’s just so much support and it’s such a positive environment; I’m just thrilled and I’m very grateful,” Prunty said.
Washington concluded her speech on an optimistic note, highlighting the possibility of a future where everyone understands that representation matters.
“We have a world that is so broken at times, and to be able to share your experiences of the wonderfulness of the color of your skin, and they joy that you have for who you love, your nation of origin, your politics is just something special,” Washington said.
“You can be who you are and achieve, and you can be accepted.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Feature photo: President and founder of Sexuality and Gender Awareness at SU Thomas Mannion talks with an SU student about the importance of voting (Emma Reider image).