Respect My Vote!

Rev. Yearwood and New York radio host “Charlamagne Tha God” advocating for youths to get urban youth to vote. (Courtesy photo)

Hip Hop Caucus Founder and CEO, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, recently launched a nationwide campaign to urge and assist young adults in urban areas to vote. The first summit of the third annual “Respect My Vote! campaign, was held March 22, in New York City. The event featured celebrity spokesperson, Charlamagne Tha God, the New York based radio host of “The Breakfast Club” and artists such as rapper 2 Chainz, who advocated for more urban youth involvement and support in politics and voting.

“Hip Hop has always been political from its inception, and tells the story of the oppressed, that overtime helped shape policy. Hip Hop and politics are critical to each other and it is important for people to understand that their vote is critical and that democracy is not a spectator sport. You can’t say anything if you don’t vote,” Yearwood told the AFRO.

The Hip Hop Caucus was formed in 2004, following Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network, Puff Daddy’s (Vote or Die) campaign, Jay Z’s “Voice Your Choice,” and the AFL-CIO’s “Hip Hop Voices.”  Yearwood’s goal is to bring the power of the Hip Hop community to Washington, D.C., where he’s lived most of his life. There is no date for the D.C. Caucus yet, , he said.

“Celebrity input is so important because they actually take issues that everyday youth may not know about and make them relevant. Beyoncé’s Formation video was political and told a story. We can now take that story and address climate change, police reform, women’s rights, and apply it to the next steps of policy change,” Yearwood said.

In 2008, the Hip Hop Caucus featured celebrities such as T.I. and Keyshia Cole.

“In the past primary in Florida, 1 in 4 Black people could not vote because of their criminal background, zapping power from the community. That is why we are currently working on voting reforms, speaking at Black universities, going to community centers, and encouraging members of the community to get involved,” Yearwood said.

In addition to voting, the caucus works on other issues, including the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign, a response to Hurricane Katrina that stopped illegal evictions of Katrina survivors and holding police and government entities accountable for their injustices, according to its website. “We use Hip Hop to make sure our voices are heard and to strengthen democracy. Everything Beyoncé did in Formation can’t be done without voting. Historically, people of color died to give you a chance to vote. That alone should motivate you, regardless,” Yearwood said.