For those who do not know, I applied for and received a scholarship for the Washington seminar in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C. The seminars and work schedule took place over a two-week period, so I had to be excused from my UNCC classes. I met students from across the country, and read literature on conventions, elections and campaign finance. I also attended lectures featuring politicians, members of the media and academics, and then wrote a few essays.
Most of the first week of the DNC experience focused on academics. There are so many great moments from the past two weeks that I find it difficult to include all of them, but several connect to my personal values. I have always been passionate about civil rights, equality and human rights, so, having the opportunity to hear the Honorable Mel Watt and Harvey Gantt speak was of great importance to me.
Their beginnings in politics took place at a time when segregation existed. They discussed campaigning post-segregation when opponents would not appear in the same room with them as well as the racism that exists today. At the event at UNC Charlotte City Center, my question for Mr. Gantt was, “has the election of President Obama improved race relations or shined a spotlight on prejudice and racism in the United States?” His answer echoed my own beliefs that we have seen a lot of prejudice and racism since the election of the President, we have not traveled far enough since the days of segregation, and that our country still has much work to do. Afterward, I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite local officials, Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield. Elected in 2011, Mayfield is the Charlotte’s first openly gay elected official.
The seminars were interesting because after each presentation we had a chance to ask questions and sometime put people on the spot. Some of the people that spoke included Ricky Kirshner (Executive Producer of DNC), Aaron Brown (Broadcast Journalist) and many more. I also had the chance to interview Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield, the Honorable Mel Watt and Harvey Gant, Patricia Cotham (a Democrat in the North Carolina House of Representatives), Alan Cavanna of WSOC TV, and Lieutenant Governor McClintock of Puerto Rico.
We had a Q &A session at UNCC Center City with Harvey Gantt and other local politicians. The UNCC Communications department took photos and video of all participating UNCC students, which can now be found on UNCC’s website and also on youtube. I received a very nice silk scarf from the Chancellor and networked with local officials at the cocktail party.
Before leaving, I took a tour of the E Pluribus Unum exhibit in the UNC Charlotte Gallery, which features art that represents diverse and polarizing political topics, such as Amendment 1, Occupy Charlotte, and also images of political figures. It was a great learning experience.
Up next ~ working for the DNC Charlotte Host Committee