1992: While attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, my passion for politics was ignited during the presidential election that year. With much political unrest and an undercurrent pulling the USA toward division and trying times, a third-party candidate, businessman, Ross Perot, got into the Presidential race to compete against GOP incumbent George H.W. Bush and Democratic Party candidate, Bill Clinton. It was exciting!
In a valiant effort to encourage my Generation X to engage in discussion on the hot topics of the time, and vote, I created and produced an event I called: Awareness Fest. In a time of no smart cell phones, no convenient laptop computers, easy internet or wi-fi, my production preparations and outreach was all done via old school style: in person, by hand, utilizing a typewriter, fax machine and landline telephone calls.
As I was single-handedly producing my Awareness Fest and wanted the location for the event to be situated smack in the heart of the university campus, the Belk Tower at UNCC, in order to obtain university permits for the event, I was required to list myself as a campus organization, which I called: United We Stand.
Reaching out through faxes and phone calls, I secured event participation from dozens of social, environmental and political organizations both on, and off campus. Even more, I received support from the newly established MTV Rock the Vote organization who provided me with their posters, pins, and a variety of their swag to give away.
In my outreach to organizations and news outlets, I described my Awareness Fest event:
“This day is aimed at alerting people of various social, political, and environmental issues. It is a day to ask questions, get answers, gain information, get involved, and help make a change.
Various organizations, both on and off campus, will come to the Awareness Fest to provide literature and speak about existing problems, causes, and solutions in our country today. Furthermore, tables will be provided for those who wish to REGISTER TO VOTE, learn to VOTE BY ABSENTEE BALLOT, and DONATE (food/clothes/money) to the HOMELESS.
Speakers will be present for various discussions throughout the day. These include AIDS, Racism, Abortion, and the Environment. The event kicks off at 9:20am with a FLAG CEREMONY and introduction of representing organizations.”
Not only did I have dozens of organizations participate in my 1992 event, plus registered hundreds of students and faculty to vote, obtained hundreds of signatures on a petition calling for Voting Booths on college campuses, held roundtable discussions and debates on pressing issues, raised donations for people in need, and had support from MTV Rock the Vote, I also made the Charlotte Observer newspaper, and delivered a powerful twenty-minute prepared speech that has withstood the test of time.
© T. Ortega Gaines - Charlotte Observer newspaper, April 17, 1992
Under the Charlotte Observer newspaper photo, it read:
UNC Charlotte student David Z. urges fellow students to stand up for America on Thursday during an Awareness Fair at Belk Tower on the UNCC campus. Organized by junior theater major Dawn Jeronowitz (at right, holding flag), the event was aimed at increasing voter awareness on campus, “The purpose was to inform people that there are good candidates, that they need to get involved, and they need to vote,” said Jeronowitz. “We don’t have enough people voting in our country, especially college students.”
This was the poster I created for my Awareness fest event held in October 1992. I hung the poster all around the university campus, as well as at a variety of business locations near to the college. I even made a tri-fold tabletop version which I set on every table in the university dining hall.
Some photos I took from my Awareness Fest event in April 1992.
Yes, I had a band play live music at my event. That came in handy when I needed the audio system and microphone to sing the National Anthem, provide speeches, and rally students to vote.
Even better, I held TWO Awareness Fest events on my UNCC campus; one in election primary season on April 16, 1992, and the other closer to election day on October 1, 1992. I was also invited to produce an event on the campus of University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I produced that November 1, 1992 event as a benefit concert, Band Together, that also included tables set up for a variety of social, political, and environmental organizations, plus, student discussion and debate on the issues, voter registration, and donations for those in need.
Though I remain proud of my bi-partisan accomplishments and activism for America, it is impossible to ignore that the very same issues I addressed in 1992 are the very same issues we continue battling today: racism, abortion, environmental concerns, contagious disease. Unlike today, my event was fully bipartisan; members of ALL political affiliation were welcomed and encouraged to speak and debate their perspectives on the issues. Perhaps if we take time to open communication, get back to sensible dialogue, we can FINALLY find common ground and evolve into a more peaceful, happier, safer society in the United States of America. As citizens of the United States, we are not each other’s enemy, rather, we are one common people, one nation. We must stand together in unity, with all our beautiful diversity. Divided we fall, but united we will rise. Time to put the 'Team' back in Team USA.