As Charles Dumas spoke to a crowd of members of both the Penn State chapter of the NAACP and the Penn State Student Black Caucus, he quoted Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes: “Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”
Dumas, 67, is currently running for a seat in the House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s Fifth District, and explained that he is running to make sure the House does something for his and all other districts, not just try to get rid of President Barack Obama. He said “you guys” made it possible for him to run when Obama became the first black president.
While living in Mississippi Dumas was a civil rights worker helping blacks register to vote. At that time, the state still had literacy tests in place where registering to vote required citizens to write out part of the Mississippi State Constitution and then an interpretation of the excerpt he or she wrote. These measures were overturned by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
He compared these events to the new voter identification laws, which will require voters in Pennsylvania to present a valid photo ID. Court hearings went on Tuesday in Harrisburg, where proponents attempted to make obtaining a photo ID easier, and opponents said the law will disenfranchise some voters.
Dumas said this law “is a flash back to the Jim Crow days” and is an attempt by Republicans to deprive young people and minorities of the right to vote. He urged the crowd to do whatever it could to make sure the law doesn’t stay in place.
Talking about his campaign, Dumas said he is going to work for the President and the Democratic Party. Dumas continued that he would “work with whoever is working for the good of the people.”
Dumas is a professor in the School of Theatre at Penn State, even though he achieved a Yale Law School degree in 1979. His campaign manager Ashante Kirby (Law School Class of 2012) calls him a “Renaissance man.”
Kirby met Dumas in 1998 during her undergraduate studies at Penn State. She explained that it wasn’t a long process when Dumas decided to run. Kirby said what drove Dumas to begin his campaign was the deliberate delay of progress in Congress because of partisanship, referring to the delays in passing healthcare reforms .
“It would be nothing but a benefit having him in Congress,” she said about Dumas.
Fundraising Chair for Penn State’s chapter of the NAACP Shantell Jennings (senior-hotel, restaurant and institutional management) said Dumas is “a representative that represents us.” Jennings said she backs him “100 percent” because he supports the president.
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