Huffpost Black Voices
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Malik Yusef Headshot

Voting Changes Everything

Posted: Updated:

Is it possible that this year's election may be the most entertaining yet? I'd say so. Musical instruments around the world are being tuned to describe the outcries and passions of people "from all walks of life." Fact is that I too am on the frontlines of this year's elections. Not so much on who should win or whom another should vote for, but rather that we all step up and "turn out" to vote. There was a time when just being able to vote was the main issue for this country. Now, the trouble is getting people to the booth in order to do something that others fought hard to simply achieve an active role in.

The reasons for this are complex, but it should be noted that America is one of three countries, along with Jamaica and Malta, with a two-party system (Republican vs. Democrats), which often leaves people feeling like they have no choice at all (Coke vs. Pepsi anyone?) and creates a dull and limited political landscape. In addition, civics has been taken out of our public schools, leaving many of our kids uninformed as to the political process. Once they turn 18 they are expected to be fully engaged participants, which is like asking someone to walk into a middle of a movie and know what is happening. There also seems to be a disconnect in people's minds between voting and their every day lives. In the Trayvon Martin case, many stood up in outrage at the Stand Your Ground Law, yet I guarantee you that if you asked how many of them actually vote or participate in the political system, the number would be dismal. In short, we love complaining -- but when it comes to doing something about it -- as simple as voting -- we will find a hundred excuses not to do it (until it is too late).

Often we tend to forget (or simply we're not educated to the fact) that the 1866 Civil Rights Act granted citizenship but not the right to vote for all Native Born Americans. It also wasn't until 1869 that Congress passed the 15th Amendment giving African American men the right to vote. Only to turn around in 1882 and have Congress pass the Chinese exclusion act denying citizenship and voting rights to Chinese Americans. Not to mention it wasn't until 1918 that women over 30 were even allowed to vote. Even today, when a woman candidate is running the media seems to be most interested in what she is wearing and her shoes rather than the platform she is running on. How can we build a strong future when our history books are void of the "building blocks" in our past such as Shirley Chisholm? In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress and in 1972 she became the first major-party black candidate for president of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Yet, in the 2008 Presidential election, that seemed to be all but forgotten, as people stood in awe of both Mrs. Clinton and Obama.

Fast forward to today's generation, which steadily recites "What's the point [in voting]?" Considering Cynthia McKinney's American Blackout, which documented the former member of the House of Representatives' investigation into voter fraud in Florida for the 2000 presidential election, it would seem that perhaps there is "no point." That is precisely what they would like for all of us to think because "silence is the ultimate weapon of power." It is in its dark corners that the mis-informers and misleaders are able to rock the people to sleep and away from the truth. Only in this secrecy and away from public scrutiny (especially considering the overall complacent state of our current media) can they truly trade the public interest for short-lived profit.

In 2004, P.Diddy brought you the "Vote or Die" campaign explaining just how this type of disengagement plays out. But that was over 8 years ago, and now with the 2012 election coming up the call to action is once again upon us (and the music community) where, undeniably, hip hop will be needed to activate the masses. This year's campaign is called "Respect My Vote" of which I am one of the spokesman for. This year we will see the involvement of Kanye West, Future, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, Raheem DeVaughn and Snoop Dogg, just to name a few.

Overall, you can be assured that music will once again become the "CNN of the Ghettos" as Chuck D and Public Enemy once said. The primary issues I will be taking on are gerrymandering and the disenfranchisement of those once convicted of a felony. I want to educate the public about the "tactics" used to silence them and what their voting rights are in order to avoid a new round of poll taxes and Jim Crow-style laws. The basic premise of the campaign is that if we don't push back in this election, we won't be able to get these policies changed moving forward. It is true that voting changes everything, but it is important to note that nothing changes unless the vote is an educated one made by an awoken mind. Prepare yourself for the arrival of the "Fix-Tape" series and much more to come! Remember, Respect My Vote!

Around the Web

The Year of the Youth Vote - TIME

Hip Hop Caucus | Respect My Vote!

Hip Hop Caucus | A civil and human rights organization for the 21st ...

Respect My Vote! Hip Hop Caucus and Women of ... - Huffington Post

RESPECT MY VOTE CAMPAIGN on Myspace

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
Click for Full Results