By Sabryna Crutchfield
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) partnered with Clark Atlanta University (CAU) to launch the NCBCP Thomas W. Dortch, Jr.
Institute for Leadership, Civic Engagement, Economic Empowerment & Social Justice Institute and Southern Regional Office (The NCBCP TWD Jr. Institute) on the campus of CAU. The mission of the NCBCP and CAU Partnership is amplifying civic engagement along with urgent issues affecting Black communities and others impacted by both systemic and structural racism, inequities, and injustice
Thomas W. Dortch, whom the institute is named after has spent the majority of his life as a leader encouraging civic engagement in the black community—starting in 1971 during his undergraduate years at Fort Valley State University. While serving as the student body government president he was able to get 96% of the student body registered to vote. Later in life, while serving as the first African American associate director of the democratic party of Georgia he recruited students out of the Atlanta University Center. Amongst those that he recruited was Melanie Campbell who at the time was a student at Clark Atlanta University, she is now the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Thomas says Melanie is his “Shining star”, as she has gone on to increase civic participation in a multitude of ways, including playing a significant part in getting women to vote during the Obama administration.
Thomas and Melanie had been discussing the concept of the NCBCP TWD Jr. Institute over the last three years as a way to rekindle the spirit of young leaders. Thomas says, ‘We’re looking to revitalize the spirit of young leadership in the Atlanta University Center. If you look at the civil rights movement, the majority of the leaders came from HBCUs; Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis, Rev Joseph Lowery, Dr. Martin L King Jr., Julian Bond, Nancy Wilson, Lonnie King, and Ben Brown to name a few. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Freedom Riders were also founded by students from HBCUs. By engaging students in the importance of civic engagement, voter registration, voter education, voter participation, and economic empowerment we hope to create a consistent stream of new young leaders.’ He went on to quote late mayor Maynard Jackson, ‘Black people will get ahead with the three B’s. The ballot, the buck, and the books.”
One of the first initiatives of The NCBCP TWD Jr. Institute is to launch their Hope & Justice Fellowship and Internship Program for undergraduate and graduate students at CAU and other Historically Black Colleges & Universities. The internship focuses on leadership development, curriculum development, training, and conducting research in the areas: of civil rights, voting rights, democracy & Black political power; racial, economic, gender, environmental & social justice; criminal justice & policing reform; diversity, equity, and inclusion; healthcare; environmental justice; women’s rights; economic empowerment including entrepreneurship.
The NCBCP TWD Jr. Institute will also host various national and regional convenings at CAU. Including the Annual NCBCP National Summit on Civil Rights, Racial, Economic, Gender, Environmental & Social Justice, the Annual NCBCP Black Youth Vote Civic Leadership & Organizing Southern Regional Training Conference, the NCBCP Civil Rights & Social Justice Intergenerational Leadership Lecture Series, and the Andrew Young Emerging Leadership Institute (AYEL), in collaboration with the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc.
The founding donors that are making The NCBCP TWD Jr. Institute possible include Verizon Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Comcast NBCUniversal and Dr. William Pickard.