Rapper Biz Markie. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

“When I say Rock! You say Vote!” emcee Regina Clay chanted to a crowd, who thundered back “Vote,” as they huddled in light jackets and sweaters amid cool weather on Oct. 30 at the Symphony Woods, in Columbia, Md.

With rapper and Howard County resident Biz Markie on the ones and twos scratching out new and old school mixes in the background, community leaders as well as volunteers took to the stage to mobilize residents hailing from Howard County, Prince George’s, and other Maryland counties to go out and vote on Election Day, Nov. 4.

The rally was held on the final day of early voting in Maryland, and was hosted by Howard County residents. Several political leaders and emerging pacesetters were present to urge the crowd to cast their ballots for incumbents who are running for various political offices.

Among those present was Howard County Executive Kenneth Ulman, who is running for lieutenant governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown.

“I think it’s very important for people to vote this election because they have the opportunity to make certain that the leaders they choose will work on the issues that they believe needs to be focused on,” said Mae Beale, a Howard County resident who said she has actively been volunteering her time in support of Democratic candidates for decades.

Yolanda Winkler, director of government affairs for Baltimore County, is especially proud that her county had the highest turnout for early voting, with about 51,814 residents so far. Prince George’s County took second place with a turnout of approximately 46,236 people.

According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Black voters have played an integral part in Maryland elections. It’s predicted that a highly mobilized Black Democratic voting bloc would allow Democrats to again dominate statewide elections.

Clay, who served as one of the event’s emcees, said this year’s election was important because of the impending changes in the community.

“Here in the county our current county executive is term-limited and the new county executive needs to be held accountable for keeping our schools, especially here, as the top schools in the state,” she said. “This new leader will determine our future and where we are going as we move forward.”

Calvin Ball, one of the rally’s organizers and chairman of the Howard County Council, concurred, saying that the county’s Black community needed to educate themselves on the candidates and what they stand for.

“We want to make sure that our elected leaders know that African Americans should be at the table of decision making,” he said. “I think a lot of African Americans who go out to vote will take into consideration the status of healthcare, jobs, and economic opportunities in the community.”

“Oftentimes,” Ball continued, “you hear about people voting against something, I want us to vote for something.”