Today is historic. Sure it’s the first day of classes, but for US women, it’s the day WE have a seat in the Executive branch of the federal government. Not a Cabinet appointment, or as FLOTUS, but an elected seat in the form of the Vice President of the United States of America.
Vice President Kamala Harris takes the stage as our first woman Vice President. She’s a lawyer, prosecutor, legislator, graduate of Howard University and the University of California Hastings, former Senator and Attorney General and WOMAN OF COLOR. Amen.
Women have been in the halls and rooms of power before. The smiling “good wife” just a little behind and to the side. “The girl” who gets the coffee. The secretary who takes the minutes. Well now we’re at the table (move over buddy) and setting the agenda. Vice President Harris has the unenviable task of presiding over an increasingly fractious Senate, responsible for casting tie-breaking votes. She is in the proverbial hot seat.
As her tenure unfolds, don’t get distracted. The media and her detractors will want you to focus on her hair, her makeup, her clothes. I WANT Kamala to wear her signature Converse sneakers (you can check her out on the February cover of Vogue). She’ll be comfy; she can settle in to her new role; be quick off the mark and sneak up on her opponents. I’m sure she has stilettos on reserve for when she needs to make a point.
I care about what Kamala Harris does, how she does it, and how it affects the 330 million people residing in the US. The people who want justice and equity, and to have a fair shake at a better life for them and their families.
So take a brief moment today and send some Karma to Kamala and just say “we’ve got you!”
Oh, and while you’re at it, send those same thoughts to our female UNC Charlotte leaders – Chancellor Sharon Gaber, Provost Joan Lorden, and Deans Nancy Gutierrez, Fatima Mili, Teresa Petty, Jennifer Troyer, and Catrine Tudor-Locke. Smart women leaders need your support.
Have courage, be kind
Dear students, alumni, colleagues and partners,
Last night was yet another terrifying event in the history of our nation. I am grateful that Congress was able to do their job and certify the election results; acknowledging the powerful voices of individuals from across the country who participated in electing our government representatives. The right to vote and to be heard is unquestionably one of the most critical social determinants inherent in our health and well-being, both individually and collectively.
The results from this past election are a consequence of some essential public health skills: advocacy, education, and mobilizing partnerships. It is our job to practice these same skills to stop the pandemic. Advocating for equitable vaccine distribution; educating the public to increase health literacy and trust in science to boost vaccination rates; and organizing communities and organizations to maintain needed health behaviors while vaccinations are happening.
We cannot stop our work now. More than ever, public health professionals are the change agents who will help us move forward toward a healthy and more equitable society.
Have courage. Be kind.
(9-29-20) Why voting matters
I’ve heard all the excuses: my vote doesn’t count; I’m not informed about the issues; I don’t know the candidates; my candidate didn’t win in the last election; and elections are rigged. I’ve had colleagues tell me “it’s sweet that you think voting will really change anything.”
Yup, I’m naïve and idealistic; I think voting is important. Voting can result in great social change or in maintaining the status quo. Voting is one of the most effective ways to let our elected officials hear our voice as citizens. Our representatives at the local, state, and national levels make important decisions that affect all aspects of our lives, particularly in relation to public health – determining health care access and health research, funding for social programs that alleviate hunger and poverty, passing legislation to improve the environment, enforcing laws to ensure our rights are protected, expanding education opportunities, ensuring military readiness, and advancing and disseminating science. These decisions affect the lives of 330 million Americans.
Even in a presidential election year, like this one, some 90 million eligible voters do not vote. Only a small % of Americans ultimately determine who becomes the president. In the last presidential election in 2016, approximately 55% of the voting-age population, voted. If you do the math, when there is a closely contested race, less than 30% of the voting population is deciding who will be the President. That’s mind-blowing and remember presidential elections are the ones with the highest voter turnouts!
I am a Precinct Official for Mecklenburg County, which means that I am one of the people you will see working on Election Day (I’ll be at Precinct 123!). I had to go through an interview process and several hours of training to become a poll worker. I am required to attend training before every election (including primaries). Poll workers are not allowed to be partisan. Our job is to facilitate those people who want to vote and ensure that their vote will be counted following rigorous procedures.
My dream is to see every person who is eligible to vote cast a ballot in every election. Participating in democracy is a marathon, not a sprint. Voting is a right, a privilege, and an obligation. There are several ways to vote: absentee ballot by mail, early voting (opportunities on campus), and voting on election day at your assigned precinct.
People died for the right to vote. Blacks were beaten and murdered to keep them from voting; women were jailed and force-fed when they protested for the right to vote. Immigrants come here and swear their allegiance to our country to become citizens to participate in the democratic process. Don’t let their sacrifices go to waste. Please participate in this simple, yet heroic activity of electing our government officials.
VOTING is advocacy. VOTING is civic engagement. VOTING is democratic. VOTE.
Dear students, staff, and faculty,
Welcome back to the Fall 2020 semester. I am sure there are some bumps as we return to learning but I know that all of us are happy to have some kind of routine back in our lives.
I am thrilled at Chancellor Gaber’s decision to appoint a Diversity and Inclusion Leader at the Cabinet-level. This individual will report directly to the Chancellor and will attend all meetings where major decisions are made about our campus. I am particularly excited that Chancellor Gaber has chosen Dr. Cheryl Waites-Spellman, as our Diversity and Inclusion leader. Dr. Waites-Spellman is a Professor in the School of Social Work with a history of working with African American older adults in culturally appropriate ways.
Why is this announcement so important? Even before the killing of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016 (just 1 mile from campus), faculty and students had been advocating for a Chief Diversity Officer at UNC Charlotte - someone whose full-time job is to oversee and implement initiatives to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in all areas of our campus. Many other colleges and universities have this leadership position. Finally, our new Chancellor has heard our voice.
Advocacy can generate great change. I am hopeful that this first step will help transform our campus into an open, supportive, and equitable environment for all students, faculty, and staff.