"I would change world hunger, and the reason is because a lot of money is wasted on non-essential things like going to war and stuff that is not really necessary. It should be spent on starving children and helping the world come close together as a community rather than individual countries and stuff like that. I guess I would start kind of a group but not like a protest group. A community that is committed to making change, and just add more people and talk to people higher in the ranks like mayors and presidents. Stuff like that so that they can influence other countries and places too. I would start where it's most affected so I guess you could say, Africa.
Fall is the season for sweaters, hot cocoa, snuggling with your mates and voting. Voter registration booths are being set up on college campuses across the country, giving students no excuse to not vote. And Augusta University is no exception.
On Wednesday, members representing LAMBDA, a symbol for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) organization at Augusta University, set up a table in the JSAC Breezeway with voting registration packets, encouraging every student that walked by, to make sure their voice could be heard by registering to vote. “We wanted to make sure that as many people as possible on campus and in the Augusta area have access to their right to vote,” said senior sociology major Kathryn Delgenio.
Following the voter registration drive, the forms were taken by members from LAMBDA to the Georgia Board of Elections on Green Street in Augusta. Faculty there will be the ones to register everyone to vote. Delgenio and junior English/Spanish secondary education major Donica Odell, both members of LAMBDA, were thoroughly trained on voting registration in August. New Georgia Project, the organization that trained Delgenio and Odell, has a focus on getting “those people who were historically denied, the right to vote”, said Delgenio. The two ladies were representing an organization that their organization works closely with called Georgia Shift. Since Georgia Shift helps LAMBDA advertise and get guest speakers, Delgenio and Odell felt that it was only fair to help Georgia Shift get students to register to vote.
Both members of LAMBDA stressed why they felt registering to vote is such a necessity in the world. Delgenio said, “it’s really, really important particularly for local elections because it shapes the state we’re in, it shapes the community we’re in, and it effects the lives of ourselves and all of our peers.” Odell added, “that’s where all the changes happen, in the local elections. Even if you hate the people that are running for president, the local elections are what actually changes everything in your community.”
Social injustices are a topic of discussion that can make people feel uncomfortable and hopeless, or motivated and responsible. Multi-platform storyteller, Bianca Fortis, is a journalist who instead of just reporting social inequalities, tries to solve them. With a background in writing, she has a true interest and passion for bringing awareness to the United States Veterans who have been deported to Mexico.
Fortis, who currently resides in New York City, is a woman of many hats. Not only is she a freelance writer, but also a photographer, and social media manager, with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Central Florida. She works alongside two other women as one of the founding members of Transborder Media, and this team of women reporters tell stories that go beyond established barriers. One of their projects includes bringing the social issue of veteran deportation to light, in hopes of producing a change that will positively affect all of those involved. Fortis does believe this can be a controversial issue but that it still needs to be recognized. “Generally, if you believe in civil rights and you believe in justice and the law, most people will agree that this is not okay,” said Fortis. She has chosen to co-produce a documentary that showcases the lives of those in Tijuana, Mexico by interviewing those who were deported to Mexico after they served in the United States military.
The process of creating a documentary is not always the easiest simply due to the one reason that may be common among all who are aspiring filmmakers, the lack of funds. Fortis and her counterparts have struggled with costs because they are having to come out of pocket for their expenses. Fortis mentioned that she and her team has received a couple of grants from universities and a few years back received a kickstarter with $6000-$7000, but money is their biggest problem. She believes that Veteran deportation is very specific with a very specific goal; therefore, she and her team have found a focus within this matter. “The veteran issue affects people all over the country, but for us it was easiest to kind of focus on the Mexican community and this particular Mexican community because they are established, and there’s a big group of them so that’s kind of like our lenses for looking at the issue as a whole because they are there and they’re organized and they’re relatively close,” said Fortis.
When someone joins the military, he does not have to be a citizen of the United States because if he has a green card, he is allowed to serve. Unfortunately, after the men served overseas and then returned to the United States, they were accused of committing felonies, found guilty and served their prison term. After their release, they were deported. “A lot of people who are recruited for the military are people of color or people who are poor, and may not have other options so that’s why they join the military and so just to say like, before you join, if you want to join, fine, said Fortis, but know that this is an issue because a lot of them don’t know that they are at risk for deportation.”
With any social issue, the backing of legislation can strengthen the awareness of the problem. “There have been several legislators who have spoken about the issue, even people we haven’t met with, they’ll be in the news for it and I think it’s a typical politician stance in that they’re like, this is really bad and this is what I’m going to do and they don’t do anything about it,” said Fortis.
One politician that changed the mind of Fortis included American politician, Bernie Sanders. Fortis said, “Bernie Sanders actually went to the border while he was campaigning and he met with some of the veterans which was a really big deal for them because that actually brought a lot of awareness to it, that’s the most I’ve ever seen a legislator do.”
Fortis and her team have limited resources, but they have still managed to draw attention to the issue of the deportation of veterans and still make the best of what they have and are continuing to build relationships with the deported veterans.
“I care about it that much and it’s been fun and it’s been a really worthwhile experience and I get to share that with people,” said Fortis.
Election time in America is the time of the year when people are either disappointed or satisfied, surprised or content, worried or at ease. Through these mixed feelings and emotions, one thing will always remain, opinions. Gathering opinions from credible sources such as the Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science, Dr. Gregg R. Murray, Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Craig Albert, Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Sandrine E. Catris, and Professor Dr. Charles C. Jackson from the Department of Advanced Studies and Innovation was very worthwhile. These four, diverse, faculty members gave their honest opinion as well as a few tips and advice regarding how they felt about the presidential election.
When speaking with someone about the election, it can be hard to figure out which candidate he or she supports because people are typically private about their political stance. Out of the four professors, Professor Jackson was the only one to clearly identify who he supported. “I was disappointed that my, first of all, the candidate of my choice did not make it to the final round”, said Jackson referring to Bernie Sanders. Jackson made it clear that he’s not in favor of President-elect Donald Trump and is disappointed that people “chose to vote in a way that we all may regret,” he said.
Dr. Sandrine E. Catris was not in favor of the election results either because she was, “very disappointed, I thought that the person that was the most qualified would win and not the person that was the loudest and the meanest.” Catris was the only of the four who discussed the importance of voting because “there’s always ways to continue participating in the political process, she said, you can be very active on the local level.” She understands that this election has taken a toll on some Augusta University students and wanted to extend the offer that Augusta University, “is a safe space where we’re going to support each other”.
Unlike the previous professors, Dr. Craig Albert felt that he gained something from the election. “I think, for me, the election just taught me as a political scientist to be more cognizant of what I come to call, everyday Americans are thinking and feeling”, said Albert. It has been said several times from people that one of the reasons President-elect Donald Trump won the election is because he was saying a lot of what every day Americans were actually thinking and feeling. Albert felt that something everyone could learn from this election would be to, “handle all thoughts, even ones we don’t personally like, seriously and to challenge them intellectually, but also to be open minded ourselves and to allow others to challenge us without getting offended.”
Dr. Gregg R. Murray was shocked at the election results. “I followed the polls and that is not at all what people were expecting in terms of that outcome,” he said. Much like a lot of the nation, there were many people who were just in disbelief that Trump won the election because of how his campaign was conducted. For many Americans, processing who their next president would be was a common theme.
With similar viewpoints and opinions across the board, the professors interviewed did seem to have hope in common when thinking about the future of the country with President-elect Donald Trump. “I think it will create, at least I hope it will create, interesting, critical conversations moving forward,” said Albert. This is always important when speaking about politics in America, to get people talking, listening, and involved.