Image Courtesy of The Washington Post
By Mariah Solis and Chanel Cole
CUA alumnus Will Jawando, current Montgomery County Council Member who is now running for Senate, believes that his interest in politics is a direct product of his experiences and involvement at CUA.
As a senior sociology major transitioning into a joint law program, he noticed a need to create a space for minority voices to be heard on campus and in Brookland, a historically African American community. Jawando recalled how the majority of blue collar workers on campus were also residents of Brookland.
“They grew up in the community and started to complain to me about how they were being treated by the university,” Jawando said about the campus workers.
After attending a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at Howard University, he decided to start Catholic University’s own chapter of the civil rights organization.
He worked for six months towards this goal before the university denied approval of the chapter in late April of 2004. Administration told Jawando that the NAACP is not consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, they argued that creation of an NAACP would “cause redundancy,” since the campus had both a student organization for Black students and an umbrella group for minority students, according to The Washington Post.
The decision ignited protests that lasted the rest of that semester and throughout the summer. In October, the president of the university, Father O’Connell, eventually succumbed to the pressure of the protests and bad press, and allowed the chapter to come to fruition. Jawando shared how the process of fighting for the chapter’s existence revealed to him “the power of activism and social action.”
“It became a big thing, and it’s actually what launched me into politics,” Jawando said.
From this, Lorraine Miller, the NAACP D.C. Branch President at the time, connected him to a law-fellow internship for Nancy Pelosi in Congress. Afterwards, he became the legislative assistant to Senator Sherrod Brown before working for Barack Obama in the Senate and White House.
“That really opened my eyes to having an impact through policy,” Jawando stated.
In his second term as council member, Jawando represents over 1.1 million Marylanders, the state’s largest jurisdiction. In this position, he has passed a guaranteed income program, a permanent rent stabilization program, and policies related to criminal justice reform. He hopes to bring many of his passed policies to the federal level as a senator.
“We need people who understand how to navigate and work the senate but also have a strong, bold, progressive vision for this country,” Jawando said. “I think I am uniquely qualified in this race to bring that both through experience at the federal level, but also a boldness to confront the systems and structures that have led to the inequality and obscurity we see.”
Jawando gave advice and words of encouragement to current CUA students, recommending that they constantly look for ways to grow and help their community.
“Always be about the work of trying to improve where you are, whether that’s at school, or in your community, or both,” Jawando said.
Jawando also recognized how it can be difficult to address cultural changes on college campuses due to the cyclical nature of student organizations and students’ temporary leadership in college. He consequently believes the lack of permanence creates obstacles for social change.
“That is not dissimilar to where we are in America right now. We’ve taken steps forward and then we’ve taken steps backwards,” Jawando said. “Justice requires vigilance. At some point, we will pass the baton.”
For more information, visit willjawando.com to read about Jawando and his campaign.