MTSU’s Black History Month keynote speaker urged her audience members to do more than just register to vote if they really want to bring about change.
Angela Rye’s mantra, which she repeated several times in her Tuesday, Feb. 25, address in the James Union Building, was “Elections matter, and elections have consequences.” She referred to the upcoming Super Tuesday primary in March and the November general election as “the most consequential elections of our lifetimes.”
Rye, the chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based political advocacy firm IMPACT Strategies, told her mostly young, African American audience that legislation at the state level since 2010 has made it more difficult to vote, especially for youths, seniors, and people of color. However, she challenged the attendees to take their activism beyond the polling place.
“Voting is just the threshold of what we should be doing,” Rye said. “Our engagement should mean that we are motivating around issues that impact us every day, that we are talking to our friends and our family members, that we are educated when we are sharing information online to ensure that it is correct information.”
Rye exhorted young black voters to educate themselves on the candidates to find out who would best represent their interests in November.
“I think you should be voting for someone who can at least articulate some kind of black agenda,” Rye said. “The politics of incrementalism have never served black people, have never served the very loyal black voter. … And we have always been told to wait.”
At times tearful when recalling her parents’ activism and the political mentors who influenced her, Rye said she wants to make sure young black voters are “walking in their power.”
“The only folks being played are us because we’re the only ones treating our politics as optional,” Rye said. “We’re the only ones that haven’t seen yet that our power is in our collective ability to unite and move the needle on issues.”
Rye’s lobbying firm is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help young professionals in economic empowerment, civic engagement and political involvement, according to the impactstrategies.global website.
In addition to her lobbying work, Rye serves as a political commentator for CNN and political analyst for National Public Radio. She serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee and the Women in Empowerment Network.
Rye developed legislative and political strategy as executive director and general counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus in the 112th Congress. Prior to her work with the caucus, she was senior adviser and counsel to the House Committee on Homeland Security.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Rye is a graduate of the University of Washington and the Seattle University School of Law.
For more information about Black History Month, contact Daniel Green, director of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs and chair of the MTSU Black History Month Committee, at 615-898-5812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gina Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)