By Professor Damon L. Fordham, MA
The Lowcountry received an important visitor Sunday, February 10 as presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke at the historically black Voorhees College in Denmark, SC.
Booker, who recently announced that he is the second African American after Kamala Harris of California to join the presidential contest in 2020, was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience of students and local residents, many of whom brought their children to hear the contender speak. Unlike many other candidates, Sen. Booker refused to concentrate his message against President Donald Trump, explaining, “people want to blame the president, but if more people voted, we could change the Congress. The worst threat to democracy is indifference.”
Sen. Booker also discussed youth crime from his experiences in living in public housing in Newark, NJ while serving as mayor of that city. “One of the best ways to reduce youth crime is to engage the young people before they are ready,” he said. As for the growing sense of political and racial division in the United States, he stated, “The delusion of separateness is dangerous.” He brought the crowd to a standing ovation as he concluded without notes in the tone of a Baptist preacher near the end of a sermon, “It is not time to give up, to curl up, to shut up, it’s time to rise up! It’s not just about who’s our president—it’s about who we are. It’s time to get up, it’s time to stand up, It’s time to reach out! It’s time for us to pull together. It’s time for us to work together! And if we do these things, America will rise together. Join us!”
After the speech, Sen. Booker engaged the Demark residents in a town hall discussion. He listened intently as they spoke of the poor water situation in their county, where brown water that is unfit to drink or bathe with has drawn comparison to Flint, Michigan. They spoke of many not being able to gain access to transportation to nearby Blackville, SC to fill jugs with clean water. One lady told Sen. Booker, “They say the answer is to raise taxes for better water, but who around here can afford that?”
After the town hall segment, the crowd seemed receptive to his message of positivity and unity that is seldom heard by public officials these days. Sen Booker refused to leave the building until all who wanted to greet him did so. His campaign manager for South Carolina is Burke High and Citadel graduate Clay Middleton, who served the same function for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.