CHARLOTTE -- Johnson C. Smith University is taking on a new approach to revitalize the area around campus.
The "Giving Voice to the Northwest Corridor" initiative seeks to better prepare voters for the upcoming election, to put leaders in power who can make significant change.
"There's a global problem. You have a gap between your politicians and the actual civilians who vote for them,” said Zwelabo Mandela, a JCSU junior who produced a film about the project.
He's also the grandson of civil rights icon Nelson Mandela.
"It's a juxtaposed position,” he said. “As soon as you walk out the door you see the city here, and then you look to your left and there's Beatties Ford Road and it looks like it's eroding and it's really sad.”
For the past few months, the group has been directing residents of all ages to an online survey, asking their definition of a leader and to identify issues they want addressed. On August 31, they will present the findings in a public forum with local candidates. It will run 8 a.m. to noon at Biddle Hall.
"You see a lot of mixed generations in the same room, talking about the same thing and that is more shocking than anything that could have been said because this problem has consistently jumped generations,” said Mandela.
He says he can't discuss his grandfather's health for security reasons, simply saying the family is optimistic about his condition.
"I see who Nelson Mandela is to the rest of the world but when I'm just talking about my grandfather, removing the titles and all the work that he's done, there's basically what he's instilled in my life and that's a hard work ethic as it pertains to education,” said Zwelabo.
For more information and a link to the survey: http://www.jcsu.edu/research/community_development/giving-voice-to-the-northwest-corridor.