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Tuesday, Nov 2, 2004, 4:56 pm

Electorate tourism, part I

By Jessica Clark
Stuck here at home, not feeling like sitting in a smoky bar with anxious cohort watching results, yet not wanting to watch "Tanner '88," on Sundance, no matter how critically acclaimed it might be...

So, time for an armchair anthropological look at segments of the voter population I rarely encounter. On NPR on the way home, I heard that many African-American voters on line at the poll told the reporter "Vote or Die." Not being a P-Diddy fan (in fact, being a pasty white girl who listened to Depeche Mode a lot in high school), I'm not so familiar with the hip-hop vote block. A whirlwhind tour:

Citizen Change:

Who knew? P-Diddy "invented the remix," and it looks like Citizen Combs may have acheived his goal: "to make voting hot, sexy and relevant," by allowing voters to bid on eBay for a chance to spend election day with his truly.

Spearhead:
At the bulletin boards for the Web site of Spearhead, a group recommended by Hip Hop Politics, a contributor writes:

Voting today, I felt myself as one of many tiny cells inside a huge organism with the potential for true vitality. Inside the booth, I was aware of the tremendous life force within my own cell. Outside the booth, I felt the same vibrant charge in the eyes and hearts of everyone around me. Every one of us has a place inside that desires and is ready to collectively create a future that will feed us all. There are so many areas of life where our voices are unequal, where advantage, skill, and privilege allow some to yell or sing louder than others. Voting is one place where many of us have an equal voice. We cannot allow our fear that the counts are corrupt, our bitterness that some are still disenfranchised, or our frustration that today???s choices do not perfectly match our ideals to take away our willingness to speak. To embrace our helplessness is to embody oppression, today or any day.


In mid-October, Bush dissed BET by refusing to appear in a pre-election prime time special. BET founder Robert Johnson commented:

In recent months, Bush officials have bombarded BET with releases and statements touting the president???s record in Black America. But to decline a rare opportunity to speak directly to African Americans in a prime-time forum with just 12 days left before the election ???does not send a very positive signal to African Americans,??? Johnson said.
???There is little doubt that African-American voters have the power to decide the outcome of this election,??? Johnson continued. ???Our invitations to President Bush and Senator Kerry were each candidate???s chance to show African Americans that their issues, opinions and their votes really matter.??"


The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has a GOTV team on the road. Co-founder Russell Simmons says "It has to be in style to get people to show up."

Jessica Clark is a writer, editor and researcher, with more than 15 years of experience spanning commercial, educational, independent and public media production. Currently she is the Research Director for American University’s Center for Social Media. She also writes a monthly column for PBS’ MediaShift on new directions in public media. She is the author, with Tracy Van Slyke, of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (2010, New Press).

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