Congressman Price Speaks to Shaw U on Civic Engagement
Shaw University launched a new lecture series on civic engagement on October 19 with a speech from Congressman David Price at the Thomas J. Boyd Chapel. The lecture series was created in honor of the University’s legacy of civic engagement and social transformation.
"This is not new. Shaw University has been committed to civic engagement since 1865," said Dr. Johnny Bernard Hill, Dean of the Divinity School
"We have a rich legacy of engagement and we are reintroducing that part of our legacy – especially to our newest students. We want to begin today reinvigorating our involvement with our community in the social and political process," said Shaw interim president Dr. Paulette Dillard.
During his 30-minute speech, Congressman Price covered topics such as affordable education, voter suppression, jobs, and housing. The main focus of his speech was how these issues relate to civic engagement and the importance of citizens being involved in their communities and being politically engaged.
“If we don’t engage, the political arena is worse for that,” said Price. “The great social movements in American history have always been fueled by people of conscious, people of faith, people who overcame their differences and found out how to work together, and how to make the most of the opportunities that democracy has to offer.”
Price drew on his own experiences as a student organizer during the Civil Rights Movement as evidence that good people being politically engaged can make a difference.
"It taught me that in a democracy, people of conviction could use the legitimate instruments of power and persuasion to produce real change in our political system,” said Price. “It also convinced me that if you did not use those instruments, you could not achieve the change you were looking for. Politics and government are absolutely indispensable.”
He encouraged the audience to take lessons from tow Shaw alumni - Ella Baker and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. - to raise their voices together and stay civically engaged, especially during uncertain times.
Baker was the founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization that was instrumental in organizing African-American activists in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. She received her B.A. from Shaw in 1927. Powell, an ordained minister and champion for civil rights, was the first African-American from the state of New York to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. He studied theology at Shaw in the 1930s.
"They both understood only a collective voice could get the amount of attention needed to affect change," said Price. "They sensed the power of effective and determined community organizing could have on injustice…progress is not purely linear. Progress is sometimes a matter of fits and starts, but all the more reason for us to be vigilant; all the more reason for us to be prepared."
Price took the opportunity of being at a University in front of a crowd of mostly students and educators to stress the importance of the next generation taking the reins and empowering themselves to affect change.
"It is up to us to bend that arc of history,” said Price. “A lot is riding on this present moment in American history and the present generation that’s coming of age politically. This could well be looked back on as a critical turning point for our country, and so the timing of this initiative and the challenge of coming together and getting our thoughts and our aspirations together couldn’t be more timely. It’s important that we all make our voices heard."