Black Student Leader Galvanizes Millennial Votes

GW students led a protest last semester on campus. (Courtesy photo)
GW students led a protest last semester on campus. (Courtesy photo)

As president of the Black Student Union (BSU) at The George Washington University, Abeke Teyibo has to ensure that her organization acknowledges Black students’ concerns and address the needs of the community.

With the U.S. presidential election only weeks away however, Teyibo’s responsibilities have expanded to getting her peers to the ballot box to participate in what many are describing a potentially life-changing event.

“I think it’s important for Black students in general to vote because it’s important to show that we also have a voice in the community,” Teyibo said. “People tend to say that if they do not vote it will make a stronger appearance but I disagree. If you do not vote, you’re basically saying, in my opinion that your vote doesn’t matter. It’s important for us to vote especially at this time, for me because of the fact that someone that we do not want at all to win…Trump,” Teyibo, a 20-year-old senior, added.

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Abeke Teyibo, president of the Black Student Union at GW (Courtesy photo)

Whoever wins the election on Nov. 8th will move into the White House, located just up the street from GWU. Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state in the Obama administration, serves as the Democratic nominee, while controversial mogul and reality television star Donald Trump has clinched the Republican nomination. Since the Democratic and Republican conventions earlier this summer, Clinton and Trump have worked hard to garner support among Black people.

This ultra-tight race has pitted supporters of Trump, with whom his call to “make America great again” resonate, against those who say they value Clinton’s decades of Washington insider experience. Among Black voters, this election has sparked discussion about the viability of either presidency at a time when Black issues are gaining more prominence. While there’s some consensus that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for African Americans, not all are ready to give their vote to Clinton. This debate has prompted some discussion about third party candidates.

Eager to take advantage of this opportunity, Teyibo, in her capacity as BSU president, has organized a number of events and panels with other organizations on campus to provide an open space for discussion amongst students on campus about the upcoming election. One of them is slated to take place later this month.

“Right now, we’re trying to work with GW Democrats. Basically we’re having political panels on campus,” Teyibo said. “We’re talking about social injustice and how students can become more active in that sense and also have a conversation about what nationality or race you consider yourself and whom you think would be best for your specific group. So we have different speakers coming in, one to represent the black community, and one to represent those that even though they cannot vote, people that are foreign, to get their perspective on how they feel about each candidate,” she added.

With the upcoming presidential election taking place in two months, students are becoming active on campus and advocating for the importance of the college student vote in this election. Experts say the turnout will affect domestic and international policy. Even with her confidence in galvanizing student political involvement, Teyibo admits that she’s not sure how Clinton or Trump will tackle the issues affecting the Black community, or if they would address them at all.

“The thing is in any type of political field they will say that they will help or they will do this or do that but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that will come across for later in years. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will actually do it. Right now they’re just trying to get the popular vote from the public,” Teyibo said, stressing that even with that reality of political trickery, she places her bet more on Clinton than Trump.

“I would put my faith in Hillary before I ever put my faith in Trump of doing anything for the Black community. Especially because of the fact -I’m Democratic so I know that Obama will be a helping hand for her and she will open her ears to him because he’s so favorited by many. I also know that Bernie Sanders said that he would help her along her campaign and also be that stature that she will need if she ever did become the President of the United States of America. Those are two gentlemen that I personally believe in. So I feel like she will do more towards the black community than Trump would ever do but how much she does is still in question,” Teyibo added.

Overall, this upcoming election will change the whole aspect of how the black community is seen. The black vote is more important than ever. Depending on who wins the election, will determine the fate of our country.

“It changes how comfortable we can be in time of war. It changes the accessibility we have to travel the world. It changes everything and I don’t think students think about it that far ahead, because they’re saying ‘why do I care, it doesn’t really matter in my community.’ It goes far beyond our community. It’s a global issue.” Teyibo said.

Teyibo said she stepped into her role as president of GW’s Black Student Union to bridge the gap between student and professor relationships on campus. Teyibo, who’s also involved in other organizations, wanted to set a middle ground for students of color and their Caucasian counterparts to communicate and develop relationships. At PWI’s, also known as Predominantly White Institutions, there tends to be a separation of students of various ethnicities on campus.

“It [BSU] gives them [students] hope that if anything ever goes wrong or if they ever need a helping hand that we’re there for them. Our Black student union is by far really engaged in student activities so we don’t only participate regarding social events,” Teyibo said. “We have panels regarding becoming a black entrepreneur, internships, and community service. We also have vigils for people who have died and we also have group discussions about how can you retain your mental health as a black student. These are topics that we feel like are really important, especially at a PWI because sometimes you get comments that shock you and sometimes you don’t really feel like people are trying to understand you but more analyze you as a subject at a PWI,” Teyibo said.

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