Former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner talks black history at YSU


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner was the keynote speaker for Black History Month at Youngstown State University, but she said, black history is American history, and it takes place 365 days a year.

Much of her speech focused on the current political moment and struggles in the Democratic Party. She said though the nation had a Democratic president for eight years, the party lost a significant number of governorships and state houses during that time.

“The election of [President Donald] Trump might be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Turner said. “But if we hadn’t taken our eyes off the prize, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Black people have been through hard times in the past, Turner said, and people shouldn’t get caught up in what’s happening in Washington to the point that fear immobilizes them and prevents them from acting.

She also said people need to pay more attention to local elections for positions such as city council and prosecutor, criticizing the term “off-year” for nonpresidential elections.

“The folks that are closest to us are the most important,” she said. “There’s no such thing as an off-year election.”

Turner acknowledged that YSU has its own challenges, citing its 8.5 percent graduation rate for black students.

“To me there’s just something wrong with that,” she said, adding that people should be going to the administration and demanding change. “Youngstown State University owes it to this community to do much better.”

She said education is not just about training students to make money or to train them to enter industry, but it’s about going deeper and teaching students how to be responsible men and women.

Tiffany Anderson, director of the Africana Studies program at YSU, said she brought Turner to YSU because a student admired Turner and she thought her knowledge of Ohio politics would be valuable. Anderson appreciated the initiative Turner expressed during her address.

“She was talking about finding productivity in this election,” Anderson said. “She wasn’t throwing her hands up; she was saying now is the time that we plan.”

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