Posted on February 8, 2022
By Lauren Sprout, Class of ’23 MA Candidate, UNCG, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Jailah Pettis, a December 2020 UNCG graduate who majored in Communication Studies, facilitated and participated in Democracy Tables on Voting as a part of her Speaking of Happiness course with Dr. Spoma Jovanovic. Democracy Tables are a conversation project sponsored by the Greensboro History Museum in cooperation with UNCG’s Department of Communication and funded by the National Communication Association’s Center for Communication, Community and Collaboration, and Change. Jailah’s discussion happened on Zoom when COVID-19 limited face-to-fact contact. The virtual format, however, did not hurt the quality of the conversation where Jailah’s focus as a facilitator was on being “open-minded but also incorporating some of the techniques we learned in [class].” Her experience was incredibly moving because it highlighted her passion for this approach to discussing and engaging with political issues. After all she says, “politics doesn’t have to be negative.”
The Democracy Tables format established early on that all opinions were welcomed and respected. No one would be dismissed whatever their views, and all voices were to be heard. The structure of the event, and the rules set in place were intentionally designed to be a model for what could be useful beyond local concerns and moved to a national level. In our exceptionally divided country, Jailah recognizes that we can disagree about our politics and still be kind to one another. That concept was put into action and a main takeaway for her from the Democracy Tables.
Jailah was inspired by Communication Studies faculty member Dr. Jenni Simon who said we must question our candidates and our democracy to promote just actions. Jaliah emphasized that “Many individuals have this idea that as a citizen we can’t question our democracy, whether it’s as a Democrat or a Republican candidate or official, but I completely disagree with this. We have every right to question them especially when it concerns my needs, your needs, and the effects on the community I associate with.”
When specifically asked about voting, Jailah said that it is where we need to look out for one another more than we do and involve those who think their voices may not be heard. She reminds us, “We have to advocate for the people who can’t advocate for themselves,” and that speaks to the goal of the Democracy Tables. All voices were important, valued, and advocated for the right to be heard.