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A year after the march on Waller County

By Kristina Rogers
On January 26, 2005

Jan. 15, 2005 marked the first anniversary of the march on Waller County organized by Prairie View A&M University students. Faculty members, community residents, and all who supported the students' cause marched in the rain to Waller County Court House, singing old negro spirituals and chants as they traveled approximately seven miles to ensure the right of students to vote. That very same day nearly 95 percent of PVAMU students and community citizens participated in a boycott against Waller County businesses, which included Brookshire Brothers, Wal-Mart, and surrounding gas stations. The march led to a question and answer forum with students in the New Science Building.

On Feb. 25, 2004 Former Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman tried to convince students that a letter he wrote was misunderstood, and his intentions were never to deprive students of their right to vote.
Kitzman's letter to Waller County Election Administrator Lela Loewe questioning PVAMU students' voting rights in Waller County sparked the boycott and march that made city, state, and national newspapers. This act stunned all who watched and read about the shutting down of Highway 290 and backing up midday traffic from Prairie View to Houston.

In a recent interview with The Panther, Lowe said, "I didn't realize there was a boycott, I knew they marched. Personally I didn't think it was necessary because they were never denied the right to vote and have always been able to register to vote. As long as they are registered we have no problem with them voting. The DA's letter stirred up the voting issue, I had nothing to do with it. It was written to me. Because of the letter they felt their right to vote was being taken away."

The university received numerous reactions worldwide in recognition of the history made. The protest gained the attention of the National Black Caucus and Rock the Vote. On Feb. 23, 2004 a town hall meeting was held in the MSC auditorium, where students' questions, concerns and needs were addressed. In attendance were Rock the Vote President Jehmu Green, Rap the Vote activist Q-Tip, a host of elected officials, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings, Texas Congresswoman and vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Shelia Jackson Lee, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, State Sen. Rodney Ellis, and State Rep. Sylvester Turner.

There may be different personal opinions about the actions students took in the march and boycott. However, students accomplished what they set out to do.

Frank Jackson, mayor of Prairie View, stated " The boycott was a coalition of the university and community leaders. I thought it was a great success. I thought it clearly demonstrated that as a coalition we were strong, stood together, stood firm. It delivered the message that we wanted deliverance. Students have a right to choose where they want to claim their residence and where they want to vote.

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