By Erica Wright
Two Birmingham High School students now have a seat at the political roundtable.
Kamil Goodman, a junior at A.H. Parker High School and Stacy Foster, a senior at Wenonah High School, both attended the Eighth Annual Black Women’s Roundtable in Washington D.C. earlier this month courtesy of Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.
The students were able to discuss issues with Alabama lawmakers such as Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Doug Jones.
The roundtable, part of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), was held March 14-19 and brings together black women leaders from across the country to share its public policy agenda priorities with the 116th Congress.
Tyson and a delegation from the county that included the students left on Thursday, March 14 and returned Monday, March 18.
“We take girls out of underserved areas . . . we want children that would not otherwise get an opportunity to do this in their life,” said Tyson, a member of the Alabama chapter of the NCBCP. “We want this to be an experience that they can say ‘I would have never been able to do this had it not been for the Black Women’s Roundtable’ and we’re trying to build leaders.”
In the nation’s capital the girls got to attend workshops, meet with lawmakers and discuss ways they are improving their communities.
While at the summit, Foster also won the Emerging Leader Award for being active in her community hosting conferences for young people, working with First Priority, a ministry for youth and starting her own Let’s Talk Spiritual where she speaks about faith with other students at her school.
Foster, 18, valedictorian of her senior class, Senior Class President, Student Government Association (SGA) President and Miss Wenonah, was also tasked with preparing for other issues ahead of the conference.
“I had to have a speech and talk about everything that was going on in Alabama and all of the issues . . . starting with working with Commissioner Tyson and . . . restoring votes to [ex-offenders] to let them know that just because you were exed out of society [at] one time, it doesn’t have to continue to be that way.”
Foster said she now is working with the Alabama Black Youth Vote and “so I’m going to start a tour in all of the city schools and encourage young people who are 18 to vote.”
She also had an opportunity to meet with Sewell.
“She told me to stay in contact with her as many times that I need her and anytime I just want to talk about things, now . . . I’m like ‘ok, my voice really matters now’ and now we’re going to stay in contact,” said Foster.
Goodman, 17, also took advantage of the networking. “I have women that I met there [who attended] schools I want to go to, so anytime I need help or need just a guide on that school, I can call them or if I need an internship or I just need extra guidance and just call them and let them know how I’m doing.”
Goodman, SGA President at Parker, captain of the girls’ soccer team, member of Beta Club Honor Society and the Theater and Fine Arts Guild, who began volunteering with Tyson last year, said she has learned to be more aware of how politics work.
“We need to be able to understand and know what’s going on so we can have black women encourage other African-Americans to go out and vote,” said Goodman, “we need help in our communities and we have other issues around Birmingham that needs to be fixed and we need the proper political representatives to help us get those things done.
Since returning from the summit, Goodman said she is even more motivated to work in her community and empower young people.
“Youth voice matters and with the Black Women’s Roundtable, helping me realize that, it’s helping me be more aware . . . and making sure I know what to do when I’m voting and making sure I’m motivating others to vote,” she said.
While it’s important to expose girls like Goodman and Foster to the Roundtable Tyson said she wants to extend the opportunities to students as early as sixth grade.
“We really need to start with sixth graders and having mock elections. If you have three sixth grade classes, each class needs to have a president, secretary and a treasurer,” said Tyson. “That’s how I grew up… so it’s just something for children to keep them informed and make them realize, when they turn 18, the first thing they need to do is go vote.”
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.