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Young And Proud: Students Not Concerned With Race In 2008 Election

This story was written by Sarah Burford, Kansas State Collegian
Young black voters across the country, and specifically at Kansas State University, are concerned about issues like the cost of higher education, the U.S. economy, and criminal justice - to name a few.

Amber Foust, senior in management information systems and president of the historically black sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc., said she is worried about the country's economic state. Since she is graduating soon, she said she wants to know what her job prospects will be. She said she needs to know if she will be able to support herself after college.

"As a young, black female in Kansas, I'm looking for the economy to get a pick-up," Foust said.

Diallo Brooks, member of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, is co-chair for the coalition's program, "Black Youth Vote." Brooks said the purpose of the Black Youth Vote campaign is to engage young people in the election process by addressing pertinent issues. He said the opportunity for young, black voters to find jobs depends on how the potential recession affects the black community, specifically in housing.

"Young people want to know they have a fair opportunity for jobs, training, and everything that goes along with that," Brooks said.

Mark Nelson, senior in social sciences and former chair for the political action committee for Black Student Union, said in addition to the housing market, he is most concerned about what politicians will do to help U.S. international relations and the value of the American dollar.

"These are things that not just black voters, but all voters, need to be looking at right now," Nelson said.

Brooks said education costs are one of the biggest concerns for young, black voters. Brooks said this problem hinges on the quality of education they are receiving and their access to higher education.

Another issue, in addition to economy and education, is the justice system and how it affects young, black people. The Iraq War was another issue of concern, but apparently not a top priority for young black people, Brooks said.

"It's time to focus on what's happening here at home," Foust said.

Brooks said the Black Youth Vote campaign is conducting a poll of young people to determine what issues need attention. The goal of the campaign, he said, is to develop leadership skills in the "next generation" to engage in its own civic process and community.

"It's important ... to not only get plugged in, but to understand the process, and not be intimidated by the process," Brooks said. "[We're] trying to break that cycle of apathy."

Foust said the K-State chapter of Delta Sigma Theta has made its own efforts to encourage young people to vote. The sorority hosted a "Crimson and Cream Week," - named for the sorority's colors - this week, offering voter-registration cards at its booth in the K-State Student Union and encouraging students to vote in the upcoming Kansas caucuses. The sorority also handed out pamphlets about each candidate in the Democratic and Republican party, showing no bias, just educating the student body on platforms of each candidates.

The sorority also presented a candidate forum, where former Kansas Gov. John Carlin and K-State's chapters of the Young Democrats and College Republicans spoke about current issues.

"[We're interested in] what candidates are doing to meet our needs," Foust said, "and what particular items on the ballot are going to affect us most."
© 2008 Kansas State Collegian via U-WIRE