Actor-songwriter and activist Lin-Manuel Miranda visited UH on Tuesday to moderate a student panel on the importance of the youth vote in the coming election.
The 45-minute panel, “Platicas Poderas,” consisted of several student leaders from UH and surrounding universities. Student Government Association President Joshua Martin, NextGen President Allyson Campos and campus organizer of the UH chapter of Deeds Not Words Lauren Morton, represented UH in the discourse.
Concern for the future, especially considering the South’s history of racial discrimination, colored much of the discussion. For Rice University SGA President Gabrielle Franklin, these concerns have become only more pressing in light of recent attempts to censor or undermine the voices of marginalized groups.
“The fact that our governor doesn’t believe that we have a right to stand up as American people of color, the fact that we’re not allowed to say who we are in a classroom,” Franklin said. “That’s what’s taking me out to vote.”
Franklin went on to say that her grandparent’s experiences as people of color living under Jim Crow are another reason she sees voting as so important.
“If I don’t vote I could end up going through what they did,” Franklin said. “So when you go vote, don’t go alone. Look to your peers, and go as a group. Share your stories.”
The fear of seeing history repeat itself, and the desire to protect the progress achieved by generations past, is what gives students like Franklin the drive not only to vote but to encourage their peers to do so as well.
Yet it is this same history of pain and oppression that gives students like TSU SGA President Dexter Maryland hope for the future. As a student of TSU, a historically Black university, the University’s achievements and growth since its founding serve as a blueprint for a future where all voices are heard equally.
“TSU was birthed out of oppression and has now produced the top pharmacists in the state, the top black lawyers in the state,” Maryland said. “We are determined as African American people and I think that is really my hope.”
Though those like Maryland and Franklin draw their motivation from a shared history of adversity, others, like Morton and Campos, are inspired by the hard work and dedication of the members of their respective organizations.
“Seeing their drive, their commitment, their determination, their resiliency, with everything we put up over the past few years. It’s what fuels me and keeps me going,” Morton said. “I know that I can make a difference in the future with the collective power of youth.”
After answering a few questions from students in the audience, the event concluded. Miranda shared some words with the panelists and students in attendance.
“I am here to tell you that the rest of the United States is looking at what you guys are going to stand up for. And I hate to be the guy who quotes his shirt,” Miranda said. “But, ‘History does have its eye’s on you.’”