Alum breaks down voter ID law for students

by Arlene Edmonds | Originally posted on June 15, 2012, to The Philadelphia Tribune HERE.

Northwest Philadelphia native Abu Edwards is a proactive young man. He was among those who had a strong academic showing and earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Wilberforce University recently.

As a member of the student government at the historically Black college, Edwards was asked to speak on a panel at nearby Central State University about the importance of young people paying attention to the new voter ID laws.

While on the panel Edwards quickly realized the students on his campus needed this information.

“Basically, since I was involved in student government I was asked to speak at Central State University, which is across the street from Wilberforce,” said Edwards, a graduate of Fulton Elementary School and Parkway High School. “As I talked about voting rights and the importance of voting I began to think that we needed some voter education at Wilberforce. We had a lot of students from Pennsylvania and they would be affected by the new voter ID laws, too.”

Edwards organized a massive voter outreach campaign at Wilberforce. His campus team gained attention for the distinction of collecting the most “Pledge to Vote” cards in Ohio last April.

“We were successful in Ohio and now that I’m back home in Pennsylvania I will continue to educate about voting,” Edwards said.

Now, Edwards is spending his time back home in northwest Philadelphia registering voters and educating young people about the need to have photo identification documents at the poll. Every morning he wakes up early and engages in this volunteer effort while simultaneously looking for employment.

Edwards said one of his primary motivating forces is the passage of health care reform, which allowed him to stay on his parent’s health insurance until he’s 26 as long as he continues his education and the increase in Pell grants which made college more affordable for him.

“I think it’s important for African Americans to understand that there’s a long history and struggle in our right to vote,” said Edwards when he spoke to a group of seniors at the Morris E. Leeds Military Academy in Philadelphia’s Cedarbrook section recently. “We had to fight for this right. That’s why it’s important that we understand who is running and who is out there fighting for you, not just at election time.

“Now the fact that many college students get to stay on their parents’ health insurance for six months to a year after they graduate, or if they are in school can stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26, is important,” he added. “Without Pell grants many students could not attend or continue to attend college. These are the (by-products) of votes that we casted. That’s why I am spending my summer educating and registering voters.”

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