As the national spokesperson for the Respect My Vote! campaign this year, I wanted to share my thoughts about the election, and talk about some of the things we can do to maintain the momentum and continue to support communities.
I have said many times in explaining why I wanted to participate in the Respect My Vote! campaign that when I learned in 2008 that I had the right to vote in the state of Georgia, it changed my perspective on the democratic system. I had incorrectly, for all of my adult life until 2008, believed the biggest voting myth that exists – that ex-felons cannot vote. I wrote about this in May of this year, when we kicked off Respect My Vote! Learning that I had the right to vote was life-changing.
So I reached out to the Hip Hop Caucus, an organization that I knew worked through the culture and infrastructure of hip-hop to register, educate, and mobilize young voters, including ex-felons. I am so proud that I got to be the spokesperson for their Respect My Vote! campaign and coalition.
Now that we are past the election, my message today to the hip-hop community is that staying involved in the political process after Election Day is just as important as voting.
Many counted us out this election. Many said that the high turnout of young voters and voters of color in 2008 was a one-time thing. We proved them wrong. The vote share of young voters increased in 2012 over 2008, and over 22 million 18-29 year olds voted. We have seen the results thousands of phone calls and doors knocked, rallies, parties and concerts, and online and social media campaigns. In every state that came down to a narrow margin, young people and people of color were the deciding factor.
Hip-hop, we should celebrate. Whether you voted for President Obama or Governor Romney, we demonstrated that we are a political force, and that we cannot be ignored.
I will continue to support the work of the Hip Hop Caucus. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the issues that matter to you, from jobs and the economy, to education and our schools, to criminal justice reform. Whatever it is that you care about, make sure you use your voice.
As I said, I spent most of my adult life thinking I didn’t have a vote, and therefore that what I thought didn’t matter. I can say sincerely, don’t take your voice for granted. It is truly what makes us all equal.
Thank you for supporting me as a spokesperson for Respect My Vote! The work has only begun. More to come soon, please follow @HipHopCaucus on Twitter and check in with respectmyvote.com and hiphopcaucus.org.