BELOIT - Your vote, your voice!
That was the chant cried out by organizers and participants of this year's Beloit College Freedom March, now in its third year on campus.
This year's theme centered on voter turnout, civic engagement, understanding the importance of youth activism and remembering history.
Speakers included Beloit College students Hana Hassanpourgol, Kaela Hadaway, Beloit Memorial High school student Kalyn Vences-Senior and keynote speaker Rick Daniels, the director of campus inclusion at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines and Skokie, Illinois.
Daniels stressed the need for students to remain active while tying their voting power to their political voices, and understanding the oppressive history of voting in America. Daniels referenced the times of state-sanctioned voter suppression from 1870 when the 15th Amendment was approved granting black Americans voting rights to the 24th Amendment which eliminated poll taxes for citizens in 1964.
"There is a correlation between your vote and your voice," Daniels said. "We have to start re-framing American history in our eyes. The history of America has been taught to us to be a heroic standpoint...but we conveniently forget about the horrific details. So today, it is important to understand the horrific details of the voting process and why it is important to exercise your right to vote."
Daniels said it was paramount Americans re-examined black history in the country, comparing the current culture of Black History Month in February to memorializing only milestone historical moments as taking the freeway over city streets.
"For over a century you have legalized voter suppression efforts," Daniels said. "That's what happens when you take the freeway. You only see the exits. But I encourage people when you are looking at American history that you take the street. See, because when you take the street there are stop signs, traffic signals, byways, alleyways. When you're driving through a residential area you can't go as fast because you might hit something. When you take the street you have to pay just a little bit more attention to understand what takes place between 1850 and 1964."
Directly following the event saw unregistered voters sign up to be eligible to vote ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.
Interim Beloit College Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood said Saturday's event was a strong way for students to become more civic-minded and politically aware.
"I think we focus too much on the academic and what we are doing internally and we don't educate them enough on what they need to be involved with when they leave, and also to have an educated understanding about it," Youngblood said. "It's important for them to take part now. The sooner they realize the importance of their vote, the more likely they will be engaged in it further down the line. They make a difference in the last couple of elections where the student vote made a huge difference."