Small group attends watch party at UAPB

Although only a few students showed up Monday for a watch party at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, student government leaders had an explanation.

“It’s a holiday and a day out of school, so a lot of students probably took the opportunity to sleep in,” SGA President Obum Nwankwo said. “School started two weeks ago, and everybody’s been working hard so they’ve not had an opportunity to sleep in.”

He said the watch party at the Student Union Center was planned as an opportunity for students who live on campus to come watch the events on a big-screen television and enjoy refreshments.

Carlton Brewer, SGA vice president and a Pine Bluff native, said he could understand that small turnout because “a lot of people were watching it in their dorm rooms.”

Nwankwo, a senior industrial technology major in applied engineering, said he was in high school four years ago when President Obama was sworn in for the first time, described that day as “very eventful for everyone.

“We were very happy to have our first African-American president, and happy that we got to vote,” he said. “That was a history-making event and we’re trying to instill history today.”

Zakiyyah Marhall, a junior business marketing major from St. Louis, said the inauguration “was an introduction of what is to come and we’ve got many more steps to take.”

Noting that Monday was not only inauguration day but also the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, she said, “President Obama is standing on the shoulders of Dr. King and he’s going to make many dreams come true.”

Marhall said her dream is to eventually operate a nonprofit organization to teach art to children.

“It’s important for children to be able to express themselves rather than being out in the street,” she said.

A graduate of a high school in St. Louis, she said she had family members and friends who are involved in politics and was familiar with campaigning and other aspects of public service but is now “more aware of what happens after a person gets there (into office).”

Courtney Jackson, a 2003 UAPB graduate who also holds a master’s degree in addition studies, is the interim director of the Student Union on campus and said other events scheduled for the holiday were another reason that fewer people attended the watch party this year than did four years ago, including parades in both Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

“It was an exciting time, a surreal time, “Jackson said. “It’s something that’s etched in my mind and something I will tell my kids about.”

A graduate of Rison High School, Jackson said he “turned down a seat on one of the buses (going to the inauguration) four years ago because I don’t handle cold weather well. I don’t think it’s quite as cold today as it was four years ago but I’ve been texting people who are there since about 4 a.m.”

Brewer, a junior majoring in political science, said “politics is everything in life,” and used an example one of his professors had given in class.

“He said ‘when he and a group of his friends go out to eat, politics (discussions between the group) decide whether they’re going to go to Chili’s or some other place,’” Brewer said. “They’re all relevant in society.”

Brewer plans to go into politics, and “my eventual goal is to be governor of Arkansas, maybe be the first black governor.”