With Election Day just months away, one campaign is hoping to encourage individuals to get out off the sidelines and let their voices be heard.
The Hip Hop Caucus — a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization which connects the hip hop community to young people and members of urban communities to motivate participation in the civic process — launched Tuesday its 2016 Respect My Vote! campaign.
The non-partisan campaign, which first kicked off during the 2008 elections, aims to help register, educate and organize voters between the ages of 18 to 40 years old.
“This campaign is focused on getting excitement around the process,” said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, who was in New York City to launch the campaign. “Getting disenfranchised communities to know that their voice matters.”
As part of the process to encourage voter registration and activism, the campaign has been enlisting the help of celebrities who serve as representatives for the campaign and also help reach out to a larger crowd of potential voters.
Previous celebrities involved in the campaign included T.I. and 2 Chainz.
This year’s first celebrity spokesperson is Charlamagne Tha God, the host of the radio show “The Breakfast club” and star of MTV2’s “Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne Tha God.”
According to Yearwood, getting celebrities to participate makes engaging in the process more exciting for some people and pushes other to go out and vote.
“It’s the first step but it’s a major first step, because it then says not only are you going to vote, you are going to hold whoever wins accountable and measurable,” Yearwood said.
Unlike in previous years, social media will play a large role in getting people involved with the campaign, using the hashtag #RespectMyVote and also having a large presence both on the campaign website at respectmyvote.com and the Hip Hop Caucus’ official site.
Yearwood added that he encourages individuals to also use a form of expression they feel comfortable with – such as poetry or music – the express themselves.
“For this generation of young people, they view this election process as very important,” Yearwood said. “This is a unique generation, I wouldn’t say they are quite revolutionary, they are solutionary. They want to find solutions to these huge problems.”
Although the campaign is launching in time to encourage people to vote in this year’s upcoming presidential election, Yearwood said that the overall purpose of the campaign is to push individuals to get involved in all elections that can shape their communities and lives.
He added that is it important for voters to get know about the policies, how candidates address each policy, and become active citizens.
“We want people to engage in the process. When people engage it helps democracy overall,” he said. “We want people to be engaged up to Election Day and post-election day.”
And for people who might feel like their vote doesn’t matter or opt out of voting, Yearwood reminds them that it is not the vote that only counts — its each of them as individuals.
“You can’t really sit on the sideline during this process,” he said. “You matter, not just your vote.”