‘We know what time it is’: Livingstone students hear from local candidates for office
By Carl Blankenship
SALISBURY — Livingstone College on Wednesday held a rally to implore students to get out and vote.
A few hundred people filtered through during the event, which featured campus groups, giveaways, games, a live DJ and food. Political candidates who spoke included Rowan-Salisbury Schools board candidates Kathy Sanborn and Alisha Byrd-Clark, congressional candidate Scott Huffman, N.C. Senate Candidate Tarsha Ellis and N.C. House Candidate Al Heggins.
Sanborn, a retired RSS administrator who is competing against former East Rowan High School head baseball coach Brian Hightower for the East area seat, said she wants to meet the needs of all students regardless of where they live, ability or socioeconomic status.
“I want to make sure that we are providing programs and we are providing instruction that’s going to support those children to become the best that they can become,” Sanborn said.
Byrd-Clark is the Salisbury area incumbent competing against recent Catawba graduate Jonathan Barbee for the seat. Byrd-Clark owns the nonprofit youth organization Gemstones and COMPASS Academy.
Byrd-Clark said she is seeking reelection because she is committed to students in the district.
“It’s all about the commitment,” Byrd-Clark said. “I am committed to our students, I am committed to our teachers, I am committed to our parents and I am committed to our community.”
The crowd also heard from local leaders. Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black spoke to the crowd about the organization. Black said the NAACP has fought for policies that allow students to be where they are today.
Black said the NAACP is nonpartisan and challenges who it needs to, but he described the presidential debate on Tuesday as a show that looked like a cartoon to him. If students do not go out and vote, U.S. democracy will not last another four years under the current administration, Black said.
“We know what time it is,” Black said.
Huffman, a Navy veteran, small business owner and I.T. professional, is competing with Republican incumbent Ted Budd for the state’s 13th congressional seat. Huffman said he could not stand in front of the students and ask for their votes if he is not willing to stand with them.
“I have stood in Salisbury to help take down “Fame,” Huffman said. “I have walked up in Lexington when they have oppressed Black lives because I’ll tell you this right now: Black lives matter.”
Huffman said the students are powerful because they have the right to vote.
“And guess what?” Huffman said. “They want to take it away from you.”
Huffman criticized President Donald Trump for his debate performance and his comment that a white supremacist group to “stand by.”
“He told them to stand by in case we’re going to do something on the voting system,” Huffman said. “Well, hell yeah we’re going to do something. We’re going to vote.”
Ellis described herself as a mom and regular working person who is running against Republican incumbent Carl Ford.
“I can tell you that he is not interested in representing you,” Ellis said.
Heggins, former Salisbury Mayor and current Mayor Pro Tem, is competing against Republican incumbent Harry Warren for state House seat 76.
“We are going to be getting out the vote,” Heggins said. “We are tired. We are tired of Black women, Black men killed in the streets. We are tired about state-sanctioned violence against Black and brown bodies.
Heggins said it can be hard for Black candidates to talk about Black issues because they get put in a box.
“‘Oh my gosh, oh she’s a race-baiter. Oh my gosh, she’s a racist,'” Heggins said. “No, the truth is I’m a Black woman. I’m a Black mother married to a Black man. I have Black sons. I have Black daughters. And if I can not stand up for what is right, who can I expect to do it?”
It is time to do and let people know change is here, she said.
“You are the change,” Heggins said.
Livingstone Chief Operating Officer Anthony Davis told the crowd the election is critical, though he did not tell students who to vote for because the college is nonpartisan.
“Nonpartisan means we’re not blind and we’re not deaf. We see what’s going on,” Davis said. “We see that four years ago you said that it wasn’t fair to appoint a Supreme Court justice in the middle of an election year, and you denied an African-American president the right to exercise his constitutional duty to nominate a Supreme Court justice. And you wouldn’t even bring it to the floor. We’re not blind that in Louisville, Kentucky, that you can get time for putting bullets in sheetrock, but you can’t get indicted for putting bullets in a sister. We’re not blind.”
Davis told the Post the event was planned before the presidential debate was scheduled on Tuesday, but the debate the day before made the rally more powerful.
He said the college wants all of its students to register to vote and exercise the right in every election, including on-campus elections.