Claflin University students careened across an atmosphere the world was watching on Oct. 15, dressed in full costume and makeup from the antebellum period in preparation for their time in the spotlight. There were media trucks and reporters everywhere, all readying for the second presidential debate. But for a time in the glare and media frenzy of a pre-presidential debate, there stood the Claflin contingent of students and Annette Grevious, associate professor of speech and theater arts. Grevious and the students were far, far away from Orangeburg. They were booked at Hofstra University, site of the second presidential debate.
That is just one example of how active the faculty and students of Claflin have been during this year’s election season. They gave their thoughts during WIS-TV’s post-debate coverage. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. organized a non-partisan political walk, an event that reached CNN.com. The University’s debate team hosted a mock debate with students portraying President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. And of course, there were multiple voter registration drives on campus to encourage and stimulate participation in the democratic process.
At Hofstra, Grevious performed a one-woman show accompanied by the voice and dance talents of the Claflin University Concert Choir and PULSE Dance Company. Altogether 53 students performed with Grevious. The one-woman show was about the life and times of Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist who lived during the antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction eras.
“This was an exciting and excellent opportunity to showcase the immense talents of our students to a national audience,” said Grevious, who noted there was at least 3,000 national and international media in town for the debate. “While I’m happy I got to perform on such a stage, I was even more thrilled that Claflin students were afforded this invaluable experience.”
“They (the students) went all out with their costumes and makeup. The students felt like superstars. It was awesome that our performance was so well received by the audience,” she said.
Grevious was interviewed by an Israeli newspaper that will be part of a documentary titled, “America for President.”
The event at Hofstra, which was called Democracy in Performance 2012, featured a variety of performances that portrayed the various struggles America has overcome during its existence. Grevious also participated in the 2008 edition of Democracy in Performance at Hofstra, where in 2007 she represented Claflin in a faculty exchange partnership between the two universities.
Jasmine Frink, captain of the PULSE Dance Company, was very excited about being included in the cultural fabric of the presidential debate.
“I can’t stress enough how elated we were to travel to New York with such a big event at hand,” said Frink, a mass communications major. “We did our absolute best as always. Who knows? This may take us place we have never dreamed of.”
On Oct. 3, Dr. Christopher Curtis, chair of the Department of History and Sociology, was a featured panelist on WIS-TV’s 11 p.m. news after the first presidential debate. He provided expert analysis on candidates’ performances.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to commentate on the presidential debate for WIS,” said Curtis, who added he felt privileged to represent Claflin.
During the second presidential debate on Oct. 15, four students – Student Government Association President Marcus Howard, Jasmine Benjamin, Shaterica Neal and Dwayne Coleman – participated in a forum of college students who discussed their thoughts on the debate.
“I was really delighted to be a part of the student forum,” Neal said. “I felt as if our hard work and efforts to bring political awareness to Claflin University have really paid off. It was very interesting to hear the opinions of students from other schools who have different political affiliations. It helped me to look at the presidential race from both perspectives.”
She added that her fellow students said the next day, “Hey Shaterica, we saw you on the news!” For Neal, that was the greatest payoff because it signaled to her that the student body not only watched the debate, but were engaged by it.
Curtis provided expert analysis of the debate with other colleagues. Veteran WIS-TV anchor Judi Gatson posed the questions.
Charles Irvin, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, organized the non-partisan political walk on campus Oct. 3. A large group of faculty and students walked across campus with signs advocating everyone to vote in the upcoming election. A video of the political walk was featured on CNN.com.
“The goal of the walk was to inspire the community to vote in the 2012 election,” Irvin said. “We wanted others to know that even though you may be a Democrat or a Republican, the bottom line is to exercise your right to vote. I believe we achieved that.”