On Oct. 25, the Student Association of Social Workers (SASW) plans to host Your Voice, Your Vote, an event focused on voter registration awareness and education, from 6 to 9 p.m in Gonzales Auditorium LAB 108.
The Student Association of Social Workers is dedicated to the graduate students in the masters of social work program at USM, according to Co-President of SASW and Masters of Social Work graduate student Olivia Ismail.
“The goal of SASW is multifaceted,” Ismail said. “First, it is dedicated to providing services to the School of Social Work, the university and the community. As our membership consists of students, we are dedicated to promoting the personal and professional growth of students. Last, SASW is organized to protect the individual rights of each student.”
SASW plans to educate students about voting and voter rights during the event with a film about voters’ rights during the Civil Rights Movement followed by a forum, according to Ismail.
“We have worked in collaboration with the BSW Club and Disability Rights of Mississippi to register around 200 students and faculty/staff through a series of 3 days of tabling in Shoemaker Square,” Ismail said. “Along with this effort, SASW has planned two voter empowerment events. These events have been titled “Your Voice, Your Vote” and include a documentary and panel discussion from differing perspectives on the importance of voting, Supreme Court voting during the 2016 election, and considerations when going out to the polls.”
SASW invited professors, local legislators and representatives of organizations in Mississippi that work to educate the public about their rights and issues facing Mississippians today to speak on the panel at the event, according to the event’s Facebook page.
This event is to encourage, educate and spark conversation about the voting process in Mississippi, according to Master of Social Work Graduate student and Co-President of SASW Brian Street.
“A disproportionately small percentage of residents of MS show up to vote,” Street said. “This stems from the feeling that their vote doesn’t matter, to their disapproval of current mainstream candidates, or simply disconnection of how current issues affect them.”
Street said the main goal of the event is to encourage a larger turnout of voters going into the upcoming as well as future elections.
“So few show up in my opinion because media tells us the electoral college chooses the president, and they are uneducated to how they can impact that in the long run by beginning to get active in local voting today,” Street said. “Also, many young people (students) are simply politically disconnected and don’t pay attention to elections.”
SASW choose to host this event as a board of officers and discussed what important issues it wanted to cover such as the Presidential election, according to Ismail.
“A goal of the profession of social work is service,” Ismail said. “In following with this, our board decided to bring the service of education to voters. The goal of the event is to educate voters from a historical perspective through the viewing of the film “Selma: From the Bridge to the Ballot” and to create a space for discussion on voter rights, issues, and how the process of voting works in Mississippi. It is important for students to get involved, first to gain information. It is not enough for students to register to vote.”
Street said he has no right to complain about current issues and injustices if he did nothing to try and put someone in office who would serve his interests.
“I personally feel it [is] important to vote because it is a right afforded to me as a minority by numerous honorable civil rights activists that put their lives on the line and some even who lost their lives in doing so,” Street said. “I feel that I am giving away all of my power to speak my voice towards the desire for change and improvement in our society I don’t vote.”
Ismail said voting is important because it demonstrates concern for the betterment of one’s community, state and country.
“It also allows an opportunity to be engaged in your future, at a higher level,” Ismail said. “Politics can muddle the very fact that voting puts power in the hands of all American citizens – to be a part of advancing their communities, states and country by simply educating themselves and visiting their polling precinct on election days. Our generation should take voting seriously because it is important.”
Street said he feels that the recent incidents should elicit emotions that urge people to want to become more politically involved.
“The easy thing is to complain and share a social media post,” Street said. “True change begins when we show up at the polls, and even after that, we maintain an active presence in the community creating coalitions backed by actions.”
SASW plans to continue bringing educational opportunities to campus through documentary and panel discussion nights, according to Ismail.
“In the Spring, we hope to organize a 10k called the ‘Race to Inclusion’ to increase awareness and foster appreciation for diversity on campus and in the community of Hattiesburg,” Ismail said. “Along with the race, we hope to invite several groups to represent and celebrate diversity through cultural performances, games [and more].”
For more information about SASW, Your Voice, Your Vote, voter rights or education, contact SASW@usm.edu.