Operation Black Vote comes to Queen’s ahead of federal election

African Caribbean Students’ Association first university organization to co-host event

The African Caribbean Students’ Association co-hosted an Operation Black Vote event on Sept. 18. 
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The African Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA) at Queen’s was the first university-organization in Canada to co-host Operation Black Vote.

On Sept. 18, Operation Black Vote (OBV) visited campus to discuss the importance of diversity in politics and the impact of voting. The organization’s aim is to educate, promote, and support Black Canadians’ participation in the political process at all levels.

Trevor Gooden, the group’s director of campus outreach, said the goal of OBV is also to help Black students become involved in voting in Canada.

“Increasingly, we are becoming a voting block that can get things done,” he said.

Gooden encouraged students to look at issues that will directly affect them and take those into consideration when voting. “We’re going to graduate soon into a really expensive country and a really expensive economy,” he said.

Gooden pointed out that 18- to 34-year-olds are the largest voting block in the upcoming election.

“As a voting block, we can really affect change,” he said. “We all have a voice and we all stand to benefit by using that voice. People’s political careers often start on campus.”

The federal election takes place next month, and, as a student, Gooden said the voting process will be different. Non-Kingston residents are out-of-riding voters, meaning they have to vote ahead of time in the polls from Oct. 5 to 9.

OBV members engaged students in attendance with discussion questions and asked them how they plan to become involved in the political scene, as well as what issues were most important to them.

OBV started in 2004 and its aim is to have more Black people elected to office. They have hosted events to get people involved in voting such as an annual Black women’s political summit and a next generation political summit.

According to Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote, the goal of these events is to get people talking about important issues and to increase the opportunities for the Black community. 

 “The Black community is often not represented in internships,” she said as an example.

According to Morgan, OBV hosted the first-ever Black leaders political debate in Ontario last year and it was well attended by almost every political leader.

During her talk, Morgan also brought up the issue that Black candidates are often placed in ridings they have a low chance of winning. When the organization met with political leaders for the upcoming election, they asked for Black senior staff to be employed in their offices.

Morgan said OBV will now continue to other universities in Canada to help students become involved and vote. 

“In this election, youth is the largest [voting] block, and for a lot of youth in our community, our goal is to try and get them to come out and learn what the issues are so they can vote for their future,” Morgan said.

 

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