The LSU Gospel Choir performs Freedom Songs during the "Every Voice" Celebration at the Faculty Club.
On Wednesday, September 21st, a group of Honors College faculty and students gathered together to hear the LSU Gospel Choir sing stirring melodies of freedom songs, to hear addresses from members of the community, and to reflect on the service project they had all worked together to accomplish.
As the members of the choir belted out the strains of “Keep Hope Alive,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the students clapped and sang along, and a moving rendition of “We Shall Overcome” resulted in resounding applause.
The celebration was commemorating the first-ever “Every Voice Voter Registration Drive,” which was launched to commemorate the volunteers who came together during the summer of 1964 to register voters and end a century of Jim Crow.
“Every Voice,” which was sponsored by the LSU Honors College and Campus Federal Credit Union, was planned in preparation for the October 22 Louisiana Gubernatorial Election. It was also a response to the challenge issued by “Freedom Summer” author Bruce Watson at this year’s Honors Convocation: “Only connect.”
“If a single phrase could help America face down all of its current problems, it would be [E.M. Forster’s] ‘only connect,’” said Watson. “Only connect your life with the lives of others, only connect what’s going on now with its deep roots in our history, and only connect face to face — not online.”
From September 3rd through the 19th, more than 140 trained Honors College student volunteers reached out and connected to members of the local community by staffing table-sits and registering a total of 652 voters on LSU’s campus, in Old South Baton Rouge, and at local high schools.
Mia Ferriss, a physics secondary education junior, said that participating in the drive was an inspiring and eye-opening experience.
“I worked two shifts on campus, but my off campus experience was really awesome,” she said. “I was at a table in front of the Family Dollar, and a lot of the people I encountered were already registered and extremely proud of being able to vote, and that was something I didn’t expect. One man said he had been voting for sixty-two years.”
Dr. Granger Babcock, Associate Dean of the Honors College, credited Campus Federal and the other community partners for making the drive possible, along with all of the students who volunteered their time and effort.
“I think it was very successful,” he said. “We registered hundreds of new voters and got students doing something worthwhile that allowed them to interact with members of the community.”
Louisiana Commissioner for Elections Angie Rogers spoke at the concluding celebration and congratulated students for registering nearly two thirds of the 1,000 voters in East Baton Rouge Parish that were registered during the period of the Every Voice drive, while Honors College Dean Nancy Clark emphasized the importance of voting.
“The more people we get to vote, the stronger our democracy is,” she said.
Mark Dochterman, Honors College Student Activities Coordinator, said that his experience with “Every Voice” helped him gain a deeper appreciation for the volunteers of Freedom Summer.
“Registering people to vote isn’t as easy as it looks,” he said. “The effort that takes to get everything organized successfully is surprising, and I can’t imagine trying to do this at a time when there were real physical dangers associated with registering voters — it must have been nearly impossible.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831