Blake Stoner is a sophomore at Morehouse College. Samantha Richards is a junior at Clark Atlanta University. Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
As several Ferguson officials resigned this week, Atlanta college students under the direction of the NAACP spent their days meeting the city’s residents.
In four days they registered more than 150 Ferguson and Jennings residents to vote, and collected contact information for another 3,000.
According to Atlanta NAACP president Richard Rose, that information will be used to help get out the vote for the April 7th municipal elections.
“It doesn’t count unless you pull the lever or punch the card or whatever the voting apparatus is. You only can participate if you go and vote,” Rose said.
Less than 12 percent of Ferguson Township’s registered voters participated in last year’s municipal elections. Ferguson Township includes other municipalities in addition to Ferguson. County-wide, the turnout was just over 12 percent.
Rose says that while demonstrations are part of political action, the visiting students didn’t attend protests while in Ferguson because that wasn’t the purpose of their trip.
For Clark Atlanta University student Samantha Richards, the week was an opportunity to see the Ferguson beyond the headlines. She said she has been inspired by the people she meant.
“I mean, there was not one person whose door we stopped at in knocking on residents doors that did not give us encouragement,” Richards said.
She said the highlight of the trip was visiting area high schools on Thursday, where she was able to give some of that inspiration back, and encourage the high school students to go beyond voting.
She said she told the students that “once you do vote your job is not done….Now it’s up to you to make sure you get the result that you want, by holding your elected council members and representatives accountable.”
Morehouse College student Blake Stoner said the work they did registering voters is only the beginning, and he wished they could have done more.
“It is good to register people to vote, but if you don’t give them the motivation to vote, they just have another right that they’re not going to use,” Stoner said. “So we did help. But more people are going to have to come. More people are going to have to do more work.”
All told, about 50 students participated in the alternative spring break organized by the Atlanta NAACP.