AOB band members left to right: Don Jones, Tameria Cole and Kayla Jenkins

By Lucas Johnson

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — The director of Tennessee State University’s world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands has a message for his band members and anyone else: Vote!

Dr. Reginald McDonald recently participated in a workshop on absentee voting to educate members of the band on how to ensure their ballots are counted for the Nov. 3 presidential election, and to register those who aren’t. Since the Oct. 2 event, just about all the members are registered.

“We’re trying to get 100 percent of our membership registered to vote,” McDonald said. “In 2020, you need to vote like your life depends on it.”

Tiara Thomas, the student trustee on the University’s Board of Trustees, was the main organizer of the voting workshop. A week before, she facilitated “The TSU Tiger’s Guide to Absentee Voting Virtual Seminar,” which was hosted by TSU Football Coach Rod Reed for his players. Since the seminar, all of them are now registered.

“I was really inspired by the football team’s leadership in getting 100 percent of their players registered to vote,” said Thomas, who is a member of the band. “I didn’t want to stop with the football team. I wanted to hit the next biggest group on campus, which is the AOB. I just think that anytime you wear a Tennessee State uniform that you are automatically viewed as a leader. And I feel like right now it’s important for our Tennessee State University community leaders to actively vote,” and encourage others to do the same.

Thomas has been a crusader on campus for voter education and registration. She is the creator and chair of the TSU Votes Student Coalition. Recently, she partnered with two other student organizations to host a daylong voter registration rally on campus that featured Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, and Davidson County Election Commission Board member AJ Starling.  

In 2018, only 34 percent of the campus actively voted, said Thomas.  

“As trustee this year, my goal is to double that turnout, if not 100 percent,” she said.   

For information on deadlines to register, early voting, mail-in voting, and absentee ballots, visit the website of the Secretary of State in your state.