Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Youth is served (but will they vote?)

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Enthusiastic young volunteers and voters helped nominate President Barack Obama in 2008. Will they support him again this year?

Congressman Mel Watt
  • Congressman Mel Watt

U.S. Congressman Mel Watt acknowledged the importance of the question, posed by 19-year-old Johnson C. Smith computer science major Enrique Garcia, during Tuesday's announcement of the "UFuture — A Summit for Innovative Young Thinkers" at the university. The cyber summit, to be live-streamed from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 4, during the Democratic National Convention, will give representatives from more than 20 colleges and universities a chance to interact with national elected and White House officials, educators, business leaders and celebrities, such as activist and Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actress Alfre Woodard, who also spoke on Tuesday.

Watt was representing the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a non-partisan and nonprofit voter education and political leadership training program that is presenting the summit with the university.

"Young people hold the answer," he said, as he urged the students who filled the room in the student union to study where the parties stand on, for instance, higher interest rates on college loans.

Johnson C. Smith President Ronald L. Carter and North Carolina state senator Malcolm Graham shared the stage with Woodard, who recalled "walking [to] the precinct with my parents when I was 10 years old" in Tulsa, Okla.

Woodard said people have started to think picking political leaders is like "voting for our teams in the Super Bowl." Recalling slogans of the civil-rights movement, she said: "Freedom ain't free. It has to be fought and protected every day."

Through its RunDNC2012 project, compiling the stories of the Charlotte's westside and those who have made history, Johnson C. Smith students got an early start making a mark on the DNC.

Time and Place to Party

Uptown at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, the Charlotte in 2012 convention host committee announced the 13 event planning companies chosen to manage the 12 Sept. 2 welcome events for 6,000 delegates — from the NASCAR Hall of Fame to the Carolina Raptor Center.

Dan Murrey, host committee executive director, joined Mary Tribble, chief of event planning, and convention committee chief of staff Travis Dredd, along with representatives of the chosen companies. Nine qualify as women business enterprises, four as minority business enterprises and one as LGBT-owned. They are either N.C.-based, have a Charlotte office or are partnering with a Tar Heel company.

Here's a complete list of which states go where. (Will California, Alaska, Idaho and Montana feel at home at the U.S. National Whitewater Center?)

While DNC convention rules prevent corporations from funding the convention, host committee-sponsored parties and welcoming events are in a different category, where company contributions are accepted.

Rhonda Caldwell, owner of Charlotte-based The Main Event will be planning the party at Historic Rosedale Plantation for Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. Her first contact was the vendor directory. It won't be the biggest event her company and its staff of five have handled. The Main Event, in business seven years in September, has worked with local openings and the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem. For the 600-person party, Caldwell said she had to develop a plan "from concept to completion," based on the history of the venue. The Winston-Salem native wants to dig a little deeper into Rosedale's Caldwell connection.

"I'm a big history buff, too."

Shirley Fulton, former Superior Court judge, and owner of the Wadsworth Estate, which is hosting New Jersey and Maryland, will be working with Event Fantasies. But Fulton got an important concession, she told me. "I got to keep my bar."

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's "She the People" blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her "Keeping It Positive" segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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