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Howard Students Share Fresh Perspectives on Politics in Talk Hosted by Stacey Abrams and The Hilltop

Abrams turned the microphone on students to hear their priorities and perspectives ahead of the 2024 elections

Stacey Abrams sits with student journalists from The Hilltop

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, March 21, Stacey Abrams, Howard University’s Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics, and The Hilltop, Howard University’s 100-year-old student newspaper, hosted a two-part conversation with students to hear their perspectives on politics, democracy and youth voter engagement. The dynamic views of Howard students were on display as Abrams moderated the conversation, fulfilling her goal of convening thoughtful and engaged discussions on Howard’s campus that highlight the importance of politics and policy in the everyday lives of Black people.  

“A part of the work that I’m doing on campus is really thinking through how we connect all the dots. How do we connect the disciplines? How do we connect communities? And how do we think about the fact that Black politics is larger than an election and it's more important than a candidate,” said Abrams about her role as the chair in Black politics.  

“This is really about how our lives are lived, how our lives are shaped, and that the conversations we have should not just happen in the department of political science because this is really a much broader set of conversations. I see my role here as convening conversations, engaging community, and raising the profile of some things that go unseen. 

Stacey Abrams poses with student panelists and other supporters

From left to right: Jazzlyn Rainey, Natalia Wilson, Cameron O'Neal, Evan Favors, Stacey Abrams, Patricia Walters, Asha Anthony, Jasper Smith, and Daquan Lawrence

In the Cathy Hughes School of Communications Auditorium, the discussion felt familiar, like a kitchen table conversation. The event began with Abrams and two Hilltop staffers, Daquan Lawrence and Natalia Wilson, who write for the paper’s News and Politics section discussing youth engagement in politics, misinformation on social media, and the most important issues the Black community is facing this election. Lawrence and Wilson spoke about the importance of journalism amidst claims of its diminishing role, as well as their efforts to uncover stories that students and the general public may overlook. 

“I think it's a very common misconception to think that young people don't care about journalism,” said Wilson, a senior political science major, legal communications minor from South Florida. “I think that happens because they're not finding stories that are for them. So, for me, it's been super important to find stories and tell stories that I feel are important to young people.” 

When asked about widespread misinformation online, Lawrence stressed the importance of having good leadership in newsrooms, pointing to his experience with The Hilltop’s editor-in-chief Jasper Smith.  

“I'll have to shout out our editor for this one. At The Hilltop, we really prioritize fact checking when we're writing our stories to make sure that we're able to support anything we're saying with actual facts,” said Lawrence, a doctoral candidate in the department of African studies from Harlem, New York. “Especially when what we see in the media is that's not always the case. People, especially right now, are racing to get stories out and not doing that extra work to make sure that they're true. It's our responsibility to inform the public and to inform them correctly.” 

The student journalists also stressed the need to follow the money, noting the importance of who can make decisions about the stories that get told. Another important consideration was the idea that “all politics is local.” 

“In the stories that I tell, I make sure to highlight [local politics], because as students at Howard, we know the politics of where we came from, and we know national politics, but I don't know that a lot of us put in the effort to know what's going on in the community that we're living in for four years,” said Wilson. “In the stories that I tell, I have made that my personal mission to inform [students] on crime bills that are going on, SNAP benefits, things that are affecting the community around us in which we can become politically engaged.” 

Students gathered in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications to engage in the discussion

Students filled the auditorium inside the Cathy Hughes School of Communications to hear from their peers

For the second half of the discussion, Abrams brought four students from different disciplines together to elevate the vast array of issues and walks of life that politics, and more specifically policy, touches. Each student brought their academic lens and practical experience to the conversation centered around democracy.  

Evan Favors, a sophomore nursing major from Atlanta, Georgia discussed health care policy and the need to broaden young people’s understanding of the healthcare field. “I think that healthcare is kind of the cornerstone of everything that we do. If we're not healthy, we can't advocate, and if we don't have the resources to go out and advocate for our own health, we're left at a significant disadvantage.” 

Cameron O’Neal, senior finance major from Columbus, Ohio said paying attention to our country’s fiscal policies and how money is taxed should be a top priority as financial analysts have noted that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path. 

“Our debt just continues to grow, year after year,” said O’Neal. “And the only way that you can take care of that is either by increasing the revenue, which would most likely come from taxes, or cutting spending. There's already been talks of raising the retirement age and this ties back into health care... It's a very big deal for us to raise the retirement age to 70 years old, you know, how many of us are going to be able to live to be able to benefit from Social Security and policies like that.” 

At the end of the event, Abrams chatted with students from the audience, sharing advice and taking pictures. 
Jael Johnson, a health management major from Alabama, said she enjoyed the diverse perspectives she heard on the panel and appreciated the way the event sought to connect with students like herself that don’t necessarily consider themselves experts at politics.  

“As someone that’s not very well versed in politics, it was very eye opening to see how my peers learn about the politics happening in the area, how they wanted to see it increase, and how to reach younger voters. I felt like it really pertained to me like how to get my attention, how to get me to vote and be engaged in financial literacy and political literacy as well.” 

The next event in the Ronald W. Walters Speaker Series will be held on April 17.  


Photos by Latrell Caton

Media Contact: misha.cornelius@howard.edu

About Howard University 

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university comprising 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced three Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu