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Rev. Lennox Yearwood Headshot

Black Voters Want Green Candidates

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When African American voters and particularly young voters of color turned out in record numbers in 2008, their vision for change was historic. Heading into the 2010 mid-terms, there is plenty of speculation about who is not going to turn out to the polls this year, presumably because the economy is still bad, or because we have not seen enough progress from Washington. These naysayers, however, have not been talking with our communities. We were not playing around in 2008, and we are not playing around in 2010.

African American voters, according to a poll released yesterday by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, are eager to stay informed about the upcoming mid-term elections and between 74 and 80 percent of African American voters say they are very likely to vote.

Complementing the Joint Center's finding is another poll done by Frank N. Magid Associates in February of this year, which found that out of key progressive base voters - women, millennials (18 - 29 year olds), Generation X-ers, African Americans, and Latinos - African Americans are the most certain that they will be coming out to vote this fall, followed by Latinos.

The Joint Center poll that was released yesterday is titled "Opinion of African Americans on Climate Change and 2010 Midterm Elections: The Results of a Multi-State Poll." It surveyed African American voters in four key states - Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas and South Carolina.

The poll found that African American voters believe climate change is a critical issue and it will impact how they vote in November. In every state, 3 out 4 respondents said that climate change is either very or somewhat important in choosing a US senator. Yesterday's poll follows a national survey by the Joint Center released last fall, which found that 58 percent of African Americans said global warming is a major problem.

The most poignant finding from the Joint Center's four-state poll is that large majorities of African Americans in these states believe that everyone including the government and individuals can do something to reduce climate change. Specifically, they want Congress to enact climate change legislation.

I just spent seven days on the road talking with African American communities, mostly young people, in Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas about clean-energy, on the Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Tour that we organized with the Alliance for Climate Protection's Repower America campaign and over thirty national coalition partners.

In two of Little Rock's Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Philander Smith College and Arkansas Baptist College - students rallied for clean-energy jobs and a clean-energy future for our planet.

In Columbia, MO football and track athletes from University of Missouri canvassed a low-income neighborhood distributing energy efficiency kits with materials that will help residents save money on their energy bills.

In St. Louis, MO I spoke during the Sunday worship at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, one of the fastest growing African American churches in the city, about fighting poverty and pollution at the same time by moving to a clean-energy economy.

In Indianapolis, IN we toured the Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 training facility, where workers were getting trained for clean-energy jobs, and then I spoke with Amos Brown at the local Radio-One station about the role Black radio is ready to play in the clean-energy movement.

As African Americans we understand, perhaps sometimes better than others, that change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, and that we must be long-suffering in our struggles for justice.

The historic 2008 presidential election was one victory, a very big one, but the Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Tour and the Joint Center's Opinion of African Americans on climate change and 2010 Midterm Elections poll, prove that we have not taken our eyes off the ball in 2010. As an energized and organized electorate, who cares deeply about our economy, our communities, and our planet, if we do not see real action on climate change and new green jobs now, we will carry this issue with us to the ballot boxes come fall.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is the President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. He is a minister, community activist, and organizer, and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. For more information on the Hip Hop Caucus visit www.hiphopcaucus.org and follow him on Twitter @RevYearwood.

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