Chance the Rapper Leads Young Voters to the Polls
By: Mary L. Datcher/Senior Staff Writer
On the eve of the general election, one of Chicago’s own—hip hop artist and political advocate, Chance the Rapper made a bold statement. The 23-year-old musical superstar brought together close to 3,000 young attendees for the Parade to the Polls rally and concert at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park.
Having partnered with NAACP throughout the Magnificent Coloring Day tour dates—Chance and his team have diligently helped registered countless young millennial voters—engaging many first-time voters with key information in their designated hometown.
With so much on the line between the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton and Republic nominee, Donald Trump—he and his team felt it was important to dismantle the stigma of millennials sitting out the general election.
“It’s important for me to be a part of it. I understand the gravity of the right to vote and how it’s been stripped by so many people for so long—how it continues to count for us. It’s a right but it’s also a huge privilege that only certain people see,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that we had as many people to recognize their power of voting and to mobilize collectively as possible.”
According to the Pew Research Institute, if Boomer-and-older eligible voters turn out in November, Millennials and Xers could match them even by turning out at much lower rates. A turnout rate of 70% among older voters would translate to 68.6 million votes. Millennials and Gen X could match that number of votes with a turnout rate of 54.5%. This level of turnout among the two younger generations seems plausible based on past elections.
The low turnout of younger voters has weighed heavy on the minds of the Clinton campaign since Senator Bernie Sanders held a large margin of supporters from 18-34.
Artists Use Their Platform
Joining Chance onstage to get the crowd warmed up was Twin Peaks, Taylor Bennett, Malcolm London, Stephan Ponce, DJ oodCouple and Eryn Allen Kane.
Singer/songwriter, Eryn Allen Kane remembers her first time voting in the 2008 Presidential election, having first relocated from her hometown of Detroit to Chicago.
“When I was 18, the incentive was if you don’t vote then this is your life ten years or eight years from now. It was very big for me, being in Chicago as a transplant. I was registered in Michigan, my parents made sure that I knew that voting was important. That is what you do to make a difference. I went home, voted and took a bus the same day back.” She said, it was one of the most magical moments to stand in Grant Park witnessing President-elect Barack Obama and influencers such as Oprah Winfrey there alongside others enjoying history being made.
Unfortunately, like so many of her peers, this election has not brought the same electricity as 2008 nor the re-election of President Obama in 2012.
Kane says, “There’s a big difference. With this election, it was very hard for me to really get into it, not only because I was on a tour and got my musical career going. More so, both of the candidates I didn’t know much about them. They were uninteresting to me especially Trump. He was like very ‘TMZ’—this whole election was like a TMZ episode. It was just back and forth, petty comment after another. After Bernie lost in the primary, I was almost completely uninterested.”
Such was the case with BYP100 community activist, Ayinde Martin who was on hand at the Parade to the Polls rally. At 21, he is still pessimistic of trusting elected officials, but felt not voting could be just a damaging.
“We all know the system is corrupt. We know that the system was built on corruption. Especially for Black youth, it doesn’t make sense to feed into the same thing that is hurting us. It doesn’t matter who wins because it’s still going to be the same system behind all of this. That’s why Black youth is not voting because we know it’s a fraudulent system,” Martin said.
As a first-time voter, he and his friends felt it was important to be in attendance with thousands of others on evening before election day—helping to steer people to the polls. He still looks forward to his future—Martin asked certain questions.
“What type of environment that I would living in—who could help me? I knew for a fact that Trump couldn’t help me, he wasn’t looking out for people like me. I knew it was serious that I at least made an effort to make sure that he wasn’t elected.”
The producer of the event was Chicago-based, Social Works—an non profit organization that Chance and two of his friends formed to engage youth in various initiatives while creating a safe place to be heard.
In producing such a large undertaking in a short period of time, organizations such as Chicago Votes, TurboVote, Prime Fortune and Boost Mobile were an integral part of the production.
Account Executive for Sprint/Boost Mobile, Tonya Lewis was there on hand as a sponsor for the Parade to the Polls. She said, their number one consumer are millennials with most having a smart phone at their fingertips, it was important to help push voter awareness.
“We’re sponsoring this event so that we can get the youth out to the polls. It’s important for me to vote because my mom and my dad grew up in the 1960’s and they were very involved in making sure we had the right to vote.”
Read the extensive story in this week’s Chicago Defender which hits newsstands on Wednesday.