FeaturesThe Buzz

Vota Con Pride: A celebration of LatinX and queer political engagement

Vota Con Pride was a virtually held intersectional discussion with local community leaders, activists and educators in honor of both Hispanic or LatinX Heritage Month and LGBTQ History Month in an effort to encourage the SAU community to be engaged citizens. 

Held on October 26th, 2020, this virtual event was hosted by student organizations PRISM and Latinos Unidos. 

Key speakers address the watching crowd and speak on their experiences during the event. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Graham.

Panelists from both the LatinX and queer communities included Dr. Brett Billman, Alexandra Dermody, Cody Eliff, Tim Kelly, Jazmin Newton, Kiley Schmidt, Dr. Erica Thomas and Dr. Edwin Ubeda, and the event was hosted and moderated by Dr. Sarah Eikleberry.

Dr. Eikleberry, the advisor to PRISM, said that the event was to “motivate people, excite and energize people, and maybe even inspire people to become more engaged citizens.” 

Dr. Eikleberry went on to explain that Davenport has a rich civil rights history hoping to motivate the community, both those in minoritized groups and otherwise. 

The panelists were asked what political action and participation meant to them, and they largely agreed that no one is perfect and that participation is going to reflect that. 

Jazmin Newton, who is currently running for the position of Scott County Supervisor and is also the President of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Davenport, Iowa, participated in the conversation.

“We don’t need perfect political systems but we certainly need participation. So long as you’re doing the most you can. I would say that one of the most important parts of participation is to vote. It’s a right that people die for. Our vote is our voice, it gives us the opportunity to put our position out there,” Newton stated.

Tim Kelly, an African American LGBTQ+ advocate who has run for alderman in the past, commented on political participation.

“I’m not perfect when it comes to participation, but I try to be there. If you don’t show up, people can walk right over you. It’s something we have to do as a community, not everyone wants to do the work but it has to be done,” Kelly said.  

Alexandra Dermody, who ran for city council at the age of 18 and is currently serving on the QC Pride and Community Centered Counseling Services boards, had similar things to say. She herself does not claim to be perfect but takes the time to find out who is like her, who will fight for her and who will get the progress she wants made. 

After encouraging people to become more involved, panelists spoke about ways for people who are new to get started. 

Cody Eliff, the first chair of the new Latino Caucus of Scott County Democrats, shared, “If you want to start getting more involved you can apply to be on boards and commissions for your city or county. All you have to do is apply. That gets you involved in a lot of different things and helps get your name out there.”

For people who may not want to get involved directly, Newton and Dermody encourage you to start at your local level. 

“Make sure you know who your representatives are. Who your alderman is, who the mayor of the city you live in is, who your state representatives and senators are. It’s important you understand so that then you can follow them and see what they’re doing,” Newton said. 

Dr. Billman, a professor here at SAU, also acknowledged that it may be difficult wading through the sea of information to find where to start. He encourages people to figure out how laws, policies and processes impact them and the communities they care about. 

“It all impacts you. All of these decisions, whether you’re into politics or not, they impact you,” Dr. Billman says. 

Kiley Schmidt, a student employment coordinator here at SAU, explained, “I want students to know that you don’t have to run for public office to make an impact. I realize the answers can be as simple as, “vote” and “be informed”. Those are the things I do on a daily basis to practice civic engagement, and it’s important for students to know those are tangible ways to take action now.”

Dr. Erica Thomas, a professor here at SAU and the president of the Iowa chapter for the Society of Public Health Education, hopes that people come away from events like these ready to participate in the democratic process, with the tools and knowledge to go out and vote with confidence.

“I would encourage people to come and listen to what is taking place in your community and what others are doing to make positive change,” says Dr. Ubeda, an SAU professor, and Latinos Unidos advisor. 
Contact information for PRISM can be found here, and for Latinos Unidos here.