Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley visited N.C. Central University's campus on Tuesday to deliver a speech at the university's student center.
Beasley, a former chief justice on the N.C. Supreme Court, and Laphonza Butler, the president of pro-choice organization Emily’s List, were the speakers at the event.
Butler’s speech started the event, and she discussed abortion rights and the importance of breaking glass ceilings. She encouraged the young women in the room to pursue the path of elected office.
“There are so many decisions being made about us and about our families at tables at which we don't sit, where our voices are not heard and our experiences are left out,” Butler said.
Butler said that this year is the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm's 1972 presidential run, the first instance of a Black woman doing so. She said that Chisholm saw an intersection between bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom and the importance of the life and dignity of women and women of color.
Freedom, she said, is the connection between abortion access, voting rights and access to clean air and water.
Butler said students in attendance should vote and get their friends to vote this November.
“There are those who continue to count you out and continue to bet on you not showing up,” she said. “That is their recipe to success. That you won’t stand up and exercise your right to vote.”
She encouraged the students to vote for Beasley because she is prepared to act on their behalf. She said that Beasley’s voice as a Black woman is important in the Senate, which currently does not include any Black women.
After her introduction from Butler, Beasley addressed the students and faculty present. She said that environmental justice, health care access, well-paying jobs and constitutionally protected rights — including abortion — are on the ballot.
“The reality is this election matters because we matter and everything that I can think of that possibly is of importance to you will be on the ballot in this election cycle,” she said.
Beasley said that her opponent, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C. 13) is working very hard to take away the right to abortion. Budd’s campaign website said that “he is a conscience-driven advocate for the unborn.” The website also said that, if elected, he will oppose pro-choice nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, prohibit mail-order abortion pills and defund Planned Parenthood.
In September, Budd also backed Sen. Lindsay Graham's (R-S.C.) proposed 15-week national abortion ban.
Abortion restrictions will mean that women who have ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages will not be able to get the care they need, Beasley said.
She also said that members of the audience should vote in the midterm elections because this election is urgent. Beasley said her late mother received the right to vote because of one of the Voting Rights Acts.
“If she were here, she would tell us that every election is the most important election,” she said.
Beasley said that elected officials will be making decisions that affect everyone’s lives, whether they cast a ballot or not. She also reminded the audience that many civil rights activists fought and died securing their right to vote.
After the event, NCCU junior Madison Kilgore, who is studying political science and plans to pursue a career in politics, said she sees Beasley as an inspiration.
Kilgore said it is important for Black women to have a seat at the table and that all perspectives need to be heard in politics.
“I was actually tearing up because thinking about it from a Black woman’s perspective, it was just like, 'Yes, there are so many things that block us from being great,'” she said.
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