GVSU begins Black History Month with Donna Brazile

To kickoff Black History Month at Grand Valley State University, Donna Brazile, a Veteran Democratic political strategist, tackled the topics of civic engagement and equality at a lecture on Tuesday.

Hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and GVSU’s Women’s Center, Brazile encouraged students to become active, especially when it comes to race equality.

“The principle of civil rights and justice brings us here tonight,” Brazile said. “These are challenges that make us uncomfortable, and so we don’t address them.”

Brazile is the current vice chair of voter registration and participation for the Democratic National Committee and the former interim national chair of the DNC. She is also the former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute and was named one of the “100 Most Powerful Women” by Washingtonian magazine.

“We don’t just celebrate black history, but American history,” Brazile said. “Because it is a history that we have created together.”

Brazile said students should take this month to find their common history and shared values.

She also told students that the road to justice is for all people, and the word “race” should be taken out of the search for it.

“I want to talk about how to frame the debate,” Brazile said. “We have to understand not just the issues, but the things that structure the issues. We can transform policy and culture and empower individuals.”

Brazile cautioned against apathetic settling and insisted on the necessity of affirmative action, not just viewing the success of one individual and making it stand for the whole.

“That’s bad logic,” she said. “We need examples and anecdotes of our own.”

Brazile reminded students that steps need to be taken, even now in the 21st century, to ensure that the U.S. continues down a road of equality. She said educational institutions can play a large role in creating social change.

“If a school wants to be inclusive, it will find a way to open its doors to a diverse student population,” Brazile said.

Jo Ann Wassenaar, associate director of the Women’s Center at GVSU, said she believes that the university has worked hard to make sure it is constantly moving forward and keeping its doors open. She said the school has worked to keep students involved in creating their own rights.

“There are many opportunities for students to be engaged in student activism,” Wassenaar said. “Students need to grab these opportunities by the reigns and charge ahead.”

Brazile also emphasized that idea in one of her final points.

“You don’t have to wait to be invited to a seat at the banquet table,” she said. “You can pull up a folding chair.”

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