voting

The Who Gets to Vote series ended on March 31 as Theodore Foster Ph.D., a professor of African American history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, bid farewell to a Zoom call of participants for the last time.

        The series was funded by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities (LEH). It was hosted on Zoom for registered participants and live-streamed to the Edith Garland Dupré YouTube channel for others. It was also live-streamed to the Acadiana Open Channel (AOC) YouTube Channel.

        The LEH grant was initially offered to the Lafayette Public Library, who turned it down after concerns of biased hosts arose. UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie, Ph.D., sent out an email regarding these concerns in which he defended Foster’s objectivity.

“Dr. Foster is a dynamic and thoughtful scholar of Black life, culture and politics in our nation,” Savoie wrote in the email. “That he is qualified to facilitate this discussion and provide context to it is without question. The University, its students and our wider community are fortunate to have him here.”

This discussion was the fourth in the series. Beginning with Pearson Cross, Ph.D., a UL Lafayette Political Science Professor, the discussions’ facilitators alternated between Cross and Foster.  

It centered on “Bending Toward Justice,” a book by Gary May. A week prior, the third discussion of the series focused on “One Person, No Vote” by Carol Anderson, and was facilitated by Cross.

“In ‘Bending Toward Justice’, celebrated historian Gary May describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens,” reads the book’s summary. “… But while the Voting Rights Act represented an unqualified victory over such forces of hate, May explains that its achievements remain in jeopardy.”

“Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures,” reads the summary of “One Person, No Vote.”

Each discussion was approximately an hour and a half long. Participants were eager to share their thoughts in both, not hesitating to voice their opinions and respond to those of their peers. On the YouTube channel, viewers sent messages in the live chat feature. This allowed them a way to participate despite not being able to register for the Zoom session itself.

Foster and Cross both remained mostly unbiased in their hosting, with the exception of a few statements unrelated to the discussion material itself.

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