How One Political Organization Is Working With Vic Mensa And Wiz Khalifa To Get Out The Vote


Fader:How One Political Organization Is Working With Vic Mensa And Wiz Khalifa To Get Out The Vote

Hip-Hop Caucus CEO And President Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is still confident in hip-hop’s positive influence on young voters.

In a time where political awareness is paramount, President and CEO of Hip-Hop Caucus , Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. uses the power of hip-hop to encourage voters ages 18-40, to stay engaged with the Respect My Vote campaign. In 2008, Respect My Vote registered 30,000 voters, got support from artists like Nelly, Keyshia Cole, and T.I. and 2 Chainz in 2012. “It’s important to use the culture because it becomes the voice of the people. Hip-hop is not foreign and doesn’t sound like a Sunday morning news talkshow,” Reverend Yearwood said.

This year, Respect My Vote is backed by Vic Mensa and Charlemagne Tha God and is currently on the “High Road” tour with Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, and Jhene Aiko aiming to register voters across the nation. This year, in addition to their registration effort, the group is taking a special focus on shining a light on police violence. Reverend Yearwood, Wiz, and Snoop are facilitating conversations around what they call, “High Road Politics,” which intends to back legislation reform around the racial disproportions in the cannabis industry.

Over the phone, Reverend Yearwood talked to The FADER about hip-hop’s message for Donald Trump, why black people must vote this year, and the importance of staying engaged after a president is elected.

Where’s the difference among the young people in this 2016 presidential election season in comparison to the last two election seasons in 2008 and 2012?

People who are 40 years old or so or younger realize that the issue is no longer just about equality. Now they’re dealing with the issues of race that are clearly still out here coupled with the issue of existence and their politics are based upon if they’re going to live or not. Will they have a job? Can they pay a student loan? Can they get a house? Will they be killed because of the color of their skin? Can they get clean water? Is the water even clean at all? Is the air clean? Is there pollution?

While our politics have become more sophisticated, our institutions have not. There’s an institutional void and we’re dealing with some systemic, institutional disparities that are being created then you need institutions to help with that. For young people and our generation, you definitely see people getting more engaged politically. As far as in the music you see much more of an earth tone that artists are trying to connect with their music and that’s helpful.

How would you say the role of hip-hop specifically has shifted in engaging voters in this year’s presidential election?

This is actually the year when hip-hop has to stand up. I’ve been in working in hip-hop politics since Rock the Vote back in the 2000s and the hip-hop summits with Russell Simmons and Vote or Die and What’s your Choice were critical. Folks were easily motivated because President Obama was at the top of the ticket. Since his second term things have changed and the emergence of issues regarding prison reform, criminal justice, climate change and education, people have realized how vital reading up and down the ticket is. This is the year where we have to use our culture more than ever to get folks excited and explain why they have to be a part of the process. Doing policy is not easy but we have to be engaged in it because if we’re not policy will certainly shape us.

With President Obama people were excited to know that somebody like them, either young, hip or person of color was on the ballot at the top of the ticket. It was a little easier—no doubt that it definitely had some impact. From the killings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, and Alton Sterling, things have changed where people have realized that we can’t legislate morality. In other words, we can’t make certain institutions like us, but we can definitely legislate behavior. People are seeing that demonstration was critical but now, demonstration without the legislation leads to frustration. So while people may not have the same kind of viewpoint of, “Let’s just vote for President Obama,” it’s personal now. They’re voting now because it’s about “my life” and putting policies where things can shape “my life” in the community.

There’s a frustration and a sentiment in the black community where some people are discouraged to vote and won’t go to the polls because there’s a sentiment that their vote doesn’t have any weight. What do you say to that mentality?

It’s ill advised and our community needs all the help that it can get. To give away our one measure of utilizing our voice, it absolutely crazy. I understand and listen, I’ve been around this for many, many years and I was a little shocked when I heard Diddy, we actually helped bring together the Vote or Die campaign, say that voting was a scam. We’d met up in Miami, we rapped a little bit in the Four Seasons and I heard his point. His point was like, “You know man there’s just so much money in politics.”

I was like, “I understand that. We have to fix campaign finance reform. We have to weed out big money in politics. But voting is not a scam. Voting is critical.”

It’s not just the top of the ticket or who you like. The list is endless with the folks we put in office who shape policy. Hip Hop caucus is not non-partisan, we’re post-partisan. We’re really beyond that party system because we want folk not to be who we endorse, but who endorses us. Not who we’re with but who’s with us.

What do you mean by “with us?”

People always ask, “Hip Hop Caucus, who are you going to endorse?” We’re like, “Well, we’re endorsing nobody!” More importantly it’s the candidate who endorses us. We take the position where we want to educate our communities about issues that affect us so they can look at the candidate, whether it’s local, state, or federal level, and they can pick the best candidate for them.

Artists are responding to Donald Trump but, we cannot miss the total aspect of the political process. While we’re saying ‘F Donald Trump,’ we cannot miss that there are people who are saying ‘F’ us because they are getting the voting rights.

In the past two elections, a lot of hip-hop artists have backed President Barack Obama. Now, they’re not really in strong support of either of the candidates but they’ve definitely expressed being anti-Donald Trump. Do you think those messages are pushing people against him or pushing them to find out more about Hilary Clinton?

It’s clear that Trump is a very unique candidate and people are responding to that. He’s said some things that are very much insulting. Now that he’s the nominee for the Republican party, it becomes a whole different dynamic. It’s like, “Wow. Does your whole party believe that?”

We have to deal with the fact that we’re dealing with the voter ID laws in places where they know this would hamper students in communities, senior citizens, the disabled or sometimes people who are poor and just can’t get an ID. It just becomes like a poll tax. So we have to look at the whole process about what’s being done to disenfranchise. While I understand the frustration with this particular candidate [Donald Trump] and other candidates who say things that are just so insulting, we can’t forget that this is still real politics and real policy.

What are some ways people can ensure young people stay engaged?

Many folks are engaged because of the many demonstrations that are going on and that’s a great way to be engaged. Also know your members of congress, know who your mayor is and your city council because technically, these folks work for you so you should know who they are. Know the politicians in your community and stay aware of who’s doing what. See who’s around. One of the most important things in this is make policy and democracy a lifestyle. Utilize your voice to create change whenever you see injustice and speak up because it really starts there.

Read Original Article on Fader By Lakin Starling

Can Vic Mensa radicalize Lollapalooza?

Chicago Reader:Can Vic Mensa radicalize Lollapalooza? The Chicago rapper publicly supports Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights, among other progressive causes—which makes him an interesting fit for a festival that tries to please everyone.

The Chicago rapper publicly supports Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights, among other progressive causes—which makes him an interesting fit for a festival that tries to please everyone.

On July 5, Alton Sterling was selling CDs in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when he was tackled to the ground and fatally shot by police. A chorus of prominent voices have eulogized the 37-year-old father of five, who many believe died because he was black—among them Chicago rapper and Save Money cofounder Vic Mensa. Within days of the killing, Mensa posted an Instagram photo of Sterling, his face lit up by an open-mouthed smile. He captioned it with a heartfelt plea for us to change the way we see race: “Tell yourself that you don’t need to fear a man just because of the color of his skin.”

That photo of Sterling became the source material for a spray-painted mural that now adorns a wall outside Triple S Food Mart. On Thursday, July 14, Mensa shared an Instagram photo of himself in front of that mural. He’d traveled to Baton Rouge as a spokesperson for Respect My Vote!, a non­partisan campaign (under the auspices of the nonprofit coalition Hip Hop Caucus) that aims to get people registered and out to the polls. Mensa encouraged locals to participate in the upcoming election—all 12 city council seats and the mayor-­president’s job are up for grabs. He stayed in Baton Rouge to attend Sterling’s funeral on Friday, and I spoke to him just before the ceremony.

Mensa, 23, has plenty to talk about these days. He confronts racial injustice, police violence, and poverty on the ferocious There’s Alot Going On (his debut EP for Roc Nation, released in June), rapping about the poisoned victims and corrupt architects of the Flint water crisis (“Shades of Blue”) and the death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of CPD officer Jason Van Dyke (“16 Shots”). Events since then—the fatal police shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile, the redoubled conservative pushback against Black Lives Matter after the killings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the horrifyingly absurd Republican National Convention—have kept these wounds open. By comparison, the occasion for my interview with Mensa felt a little trivial: Lollapalooza.

Mensa has performed at Lollapalooza twice before: with Kids These Days in 2011 and on his own in 2014. This year he headlines the Pepsi stage at 9 PM on Saturday night, a time slot that puts him up against Dutch electro DJ Hardwell, English neohouse duo Disclosure (Mensa’s onetime touring partners), and over-the-hill alt-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’ll be interesting to see how Mensa’s activist hip-hop goes over at a giant corporatized festival that seems allergic to any treatment of the issues he raises.

Not that Lollapalooza abstains from activism, of course. Ever since Perry Farrell launched the fest in 1991 as an elaborate package tour and send-off for his band Jane’s Addiction, it’s opened its gates to worthy causes. This year’s edition hosts a dozen nonprofits and activist organizations, most of them well established nationally if not internationally: they include the One Campaign, which U2 front man Bono cofounded to fight preventable diseases around the world; Rock the Vote and HeadCount, which work to increase election turnout; and Syd Rocks, which helps fund research into the treatment of a little-­known pediatric cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Syd Rocks is based in Chicago, as are a few other groups, among them the volunteer-focused Chicago Cares and two transit-centric organizations, Bike 4 Life and Working Bikes.

These are all fantastic causes, but you might notice something about their areas of interest—they’re all comfortably uncontroversial. I don’t have the highest opinion of Lollapalooza fans—I’ve seen too many of them being assholes to strangers—but I have a hard time imagining even the most despicable concertgoer getting offended by an organization raising awareness of a little-known disease that afflicts children. On the other hand, if Lollapalooza engaged with activist groups addressing issues that tend to start arguments between conservatives and liberals—racism, feminism, LGBT rights—you can be sure a whole bunch of people would be huge dicks about it.

That’s probably why Lollapalooza’s organizers—who like to promote the festival as reflecting Chicago’s vibrant culture—haven’t given a seat at the table this year to nonprofits dealing with some of the city’s most troubling crises. Conspicuously absent are Center on Halsted, the midwest’s largest LGBT community center; CeaseFire, the violence-­prevention group known nationally as Cure Violence; and Black Youth Project 100, the national organization whose strong chapter here has been a major voice in protests against the racist use of police force in Chicago.

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  • Vic Mensa posted these photos to Instagram earlier this month. To the left is Alton Sterling, killed by police on July 5 outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge. To the right are Mensa and an unidentified man standing in front of a new mural of Sterling painted on the wall of the store.

This is what happens when good intentions collide with the desire to avoid ruffling feathers so the money keeps flowing in. Lollapalooza’s reluctance to acknowledge racial inequality—an urgently important issue not just in Chicago but in the country as a whole—is almost ironic in light of the performance that closed the festival in its inaugural year, when Ice-T joined Jane’s Addiction onstage for a cover of Sly Stone’s “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey.” Of course, Farrell thought Lollapalooza would be a onetime thing, so he was more willing to take risks. These days, he’s a spokesperson for Maestro Dobel Tequila (though he’s still attached to the festival, at least for now), and Lollapalooza is an entrenched, corporatized behemoth.

When Blood Orange played Lollapalooza in 2014, the biggest stories to come out of it had little to do with the band’s music. Front man Dev Hynes wore a T-shirt bearing the names of black men killed by police officers, and on-site security personnel allegedly assaulted him and singer Samantha Urbani. (Whether there’s a connection between the shirt and the alleged assault remains to be seen.) In an environment where a shirt like that can raise eyebrows, Mensa will feel downright radical. About his festival set, he tells me, “I’ll have a lot to say.” But he won’t go into detail: “You’ll have to come and see.”

When Mensa dropped There’s Alot Going On he told Billboard, “I think the idea of activism, more so a revolutionary mindset, is something that has been with me for most of my life, especially since I was about 16 years old.” He says that’s when poet Aja Monet passed along copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Revolutionary Suicide, the memoir of Black Panther Party cofounder Huey Newton. Activism has been part of his music for the past seven years, he explains—and while that’s definitely true, it’s become much more overt on There’s Alot Going On.

Mensa’s first solo EP, 2010’s Straight Up, which he self-released at 17, ends with the mournful “Whispers,” where he raps about the shootings that claim a disproportionate number of young black men: “Black sky / Mother lamenting over her dead son / You ask why / The bullet wound from which a nigga bled run / For hours before the law even decide to show they face / Now they closin’ up the casket like they ’bout to close the case.” The track ends with Monet delivering spoken word over a sweltering trumpet melody from Nico Segal, better known as Donnie Trumpet.

In the band Kids These Days, active from 2009 till ’13, Mensa added subtle commentary on Chicago’s segregation and violence to his lyrics. On the sinister “Don’t Harsh My Mellow,” from their final release, 2012’s Traphouse Rock, he delivers the line “I’m Elie Wiesel coming live from out the ghetto.” Later he infused his effervescent breakthrough mixtape, 2013’s Innanetape, with personal-as-­political storytelling. On the slapping electro track “Yap Yap,” he describes the bleak view that many people like him have of the legal system: “No Scared Straight! Throw children in jail / General consensus is we off the hinges.”

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In the two years since his previous Lollapalooza set, Mensa says, the biggest change he’s gone through has been becoming the artist he’s always seen himself as. He’s overtly political now, though he doesn’t much care to work within the system. In an interview on syndicated New York radio show The Breakfast Club in June, he described politics as “all smoke and mirrors, and a lot of time very little truth”—he’s much more focused on bringing “power to the people.”

Mensa says he became a spokesperson for Respect My Vote! this year with the help of Chicago poet and songwriter Malik Yusef, who serves as Hip Hop Caucus’s director of arts and culture. Less than a week after Mensa dropped There’s Alot Going On, he appeared with Hip Hop Caucus founder Lennox Yearwood in a town-hall election discussion cohosted by hip-hop lifestyle site Complex. When asked why marginalized folks who are struggling to survive should divert any energy at all to voting, Mensa said, “You talk about people stuck outside the building, and they feel like these doors will never open for them. Well, you know what? This is one door you can open yourself.”

For the first month of its release, Mensa offered There’s Alot Going On as a free download to anyone who pledged through Respect My Vote! to go to the polls in the upcoming presidential election. The organization is nonpartisan, but Mensa makes it clear on the EP that he’s on the side of the impoverished, the underprivileged, and people of color—anyone with the odds unfairly stacked against them. The booming single “16 Shots” is a furious indictment of the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald and the city’s lengthy attempted cover-up. On the song’s repeated hook, he counts to 12—hardly a radio-friendly choice, but it drives home his point about the number of bullets that pierced McDonald’s body (even though he doesn’t get all the way to 16). Mensa rips into Rahm Emanuel (“The mayor lying said he didn’t see the video footage”) and the officer who pulled the trigger (“This for Laquan on sight, when you see Van Dyke / Tell him I don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”).

Despite Mensa’s anger and clear desire for retribution, his response has been peaceful. He’s been using his rising profile to bring attention to causes he believes in. In November, Mensa joined protests marching through downtown Chicago after the release of the dashcam footage of McDonald’s death. When Vice’s TV channel, Viceland, profiled Mensa in an episode of the music-centric program Noisey, the show closed with footage of him at one of those marches.

The lyrics to “16 Shots” also refer to that protest experience. Mensa premiered the song at a Justice for Flint benefit concert in February, and in April he performed it during the opening night of “Our Duty to Fight,” an art exhibit honoring Black Lives Matter activists at UIC’s Gallery 400. Since the release of There’s Alot Going On, he’s kept up the fight for what he believes in through collaborations and one-off tracks. On Towkio’s “G W M,” Mensa rips into Spike Lee’s touristic depiction of Chicago violence in Chi-Raq: “Nigga fuck Spike Lee / City notorious for niggas getting shot / It’s not a movie scene.” And in a fiery freestyle for DJ Semtex’s program for BBC Radio 1Xtra, he condemns the gentrification that’s driven the poor out of Cabrini-­Green (“And U-Hauls came and shipped niggas out the projects / And tore the buildings down and then they built a brand-new Target”) and the fear of blackness that caused Alton Sterling’s death (“Now compare that to niggas with guns / You ain’t even gotta reach / They put a clip in ya / Bullets at your fibula / Bystander filmed it on a cellular / Welcome to KKK America”).

Mensa is willing to push himself out of his comfort zone to tackle themes and issues he cares about, and this emerging fearlessness makes him even more compelling. At the end of June, he released “Free Love,” a song about LGBT rights that features Malik Yusef, New York queer rapper Le1f, genre-blurring pop star Halsey, and based rapper Lil B. Mensa performed it at a Pride party that was part of Smart Bar’s Sunday-night Queen series, and he made a T-shirt whose sales benefited victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. In a note about the song that he posted on Twitter, Mensa wrote that though he’d long been a supporter of LGBT rights, “I didn’t feel personally attached or really feel like it was my battle to fight.” His indifference dissolved, he explained, after a family member came out to him: “I realize now that as a creature of love, the battles of all people fighting to love are also mine.”

I ask Mensa what people who want to be allies for causes that aren’t theirs can do to help. The more I see people arguing past each other online, with the bitter divisions between them growing deeper, the more I think everyone should take the rapper’s advice to heart: “Just listen.”

Read Original Article On Chicago Reader By Leor Galil

Photo Credit: Vic Mensa (second from right) stands his ground with protesters who took to the streets of Chicago on November 24, 2015, after the release of the Laquan McDonald dashcam video.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa to have voter registration booth at Va Beach concert


ABC News 13 News Now: “Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa schedules to have voter registration booth at VA Beach concert”

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa will be doing their part to encourage fans to get out and vote this fall by providing the opportunity to register to vote at every U.S. city tour stop.

One of those stops includes Virginia Beach.

Each U.S. stops on “The High Road Tour” featuring Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa will have voter registration and information booths. The tour teamed up with The Hip Hop Caucus’ ‘Respect My Vote!’ campaign to help educate and engage youth.

The High Road Summer Tour will not only allow concert attendees to register to vote, but also get information on the election process, and learn how to stay connected to the issues that matter most to them.

The concert in Virginia Beach will be held on Wednesday, July 27, at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater, the show begins at 7 p.m.

Read Original Article on ABC News

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Has Some Interesting Advice for Young Voters, Launches Respect My Vote! Campaign

TheSource Yearwood-Shana-Schnur-Photography--SSP_5070-040

The Source: “Rev. Lennox Yearwood has some interesting advice for young voters, launches Respect My Vote! Campaign”

“This is the year where we are taken seriously in politics.”

In the year 2016, civic engagement within communities of color has taken on a whole new definition.

Eight years after witnessing the election of the United States of America’s first black president, a new generation of change has ushered in a novel rhetoric surrounding what it is that the Hip Hop community expects to see in the leaders they elect moving forward.

Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. is no stranger to the ever-changing dynamics of major political elections as it pertains to this demographic, and this year, he has returned once more to energize the latest generation poised to pick the nation’s next president.

As President of the Hip Hop Caucus, Yearwood has launched the Respect My Vote! initiative, a non-partisan campaign geared towards the Hip Hop community, including the new age of millennial voters who have now emerged as the largest living voting-eligible generation.

“What really creates this movement is the pain of our people,” Rev. Yearwood says, speaking on the inspiration behind the inception of the campaign. “We want to change that in a holistic way when it is not just one person coming up and them doing well, but we want to change for our whole community. One way we saw we could do it was through the vote.”

Young voters now hold a great deal of power and with that, a significant amount of responsibility to educate themselves on relevant topics pertaining to the 2016 presidential election.

In recent months, weeks, and even days, we’ve witnessed the collective effort of this generation to bring about societal and judicial change within our nation’s systems of power—an effort most notably highlighted by a series of rallying protests, marches, and heightened social media engagement to continue to shed light on social issues within the country.

According to Yearwood, we’re on to something, but it can’t just stop there.

“Utilize the vote as a door, not whole process,” he says. “Don’t vote and stop. The whole idea is to make democracy and being engaged in the process a lifestyle.”

In a time where knowledge of issues surrounding pollution and climate change, criminal justice, civil rights, and economic advancement has seen a substantial increase, Yearwood didn’t fail to mention the shifting gears of the Hip Hop community’s focus as it relates to this year’s presidential election in comparison to 2008 and 2012.

There’s still a lot out there to which we’ve been blind, however. Citing a recent move where the state of Virginia began pushing to remove laws that prohibited ex-offenders from voting, Yearwood touched on one of the campaign’s main goals, which is eradicating the Jim Crow-era legislation that keeps a great portion of this nation disenfranchised and without a voice.

“We lobbied hard and in April of this year, Governor McAuliffe allowed for ex-offenders to vote, allowing for 200,000 people in Virginia alone the right to vote.”

While the move was recently met with pushback by the Virginia Supreme court, McAuliffe has still vowed to personally grant clemency to each individual ex-offender affected.

This goal of the Respect My Vote! campaign has seen the support of cultural figures such as rappers T.I. and 2 Chainz, and former offenders themselves. While the use of celebrity figures is nothing new and definitely not a novel concept to Respect My Vote!, the initiative has worked to introduce a new generation of cultural influencers to the political spectrum.

With the likes of Charlamagne tha God, Keke Palmer, and G Herbo coming on board to use their stakes in popular culture to get voters to the poll, the Rev. explains that this campaign has displayed a new kind of celebrity endorsement where the effort being put forth by campaign spokespersons has been different from years past.

Using rapper Vic Mensa as an example, Yearwood explains how many have now gone above and beyond the typical involvement to energize young voters.

“Vic is a new age kind of artist,” he says. “He is probably the first to get on the phone with the staff to create the campaign. We’re now moving into a whole new kind of artist who is now at the drawing board putting together the plans. They’re literally helping to put the campaign together. That’s what is so exciting about this new generation.”

But even with the newfound involvement of our generation’s influencers in the political process, it seems that many young voters simply lack the energy to get up and cast their ballot.

Anti-establishment mentalities and fears of partisanship have begun to settle in, making this generation more cautious than ever when it comes down to casting a vote.

Yearwood explains that political literacy is the most important tool for any young voter attempting to navigate the political field in all levels of government this year and for years to come.

“Young voters should know the nominees and should not be caught up in partisanship,” he says. “They should be most concerned with the issues. I find that most young voters are tired of politics and not concerned about what is behind a name but how a politician is addressing the issues that matter most to them. My advice is to not worry about the partisanship, worry about the policies.

“When people begin to understand what it means to actually create legislature, then they get excited,” he adds. “It’s about us. We are the ones who are going to make this government do what it needs to do. We’re the ones who’ll be around. We are truly who we’ve been waiting for.”

Read Original Article on The Source by Milca Pierre

It’s Time For A Black Lives Matter Electoral Revolution

The recent tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Texas and Louisiana now account for more than a third of the 31 police murders by gunfire in the U.S. this year.  Last year, there were 39 murders of police officers by gunfire, down from the previous year, as well as historically. In 2005 there were 53 murders of police by gunfire; in 1995 – 70 murders; in 1985 – 74 murders; and in 1975 – 143 murders. In other words, these recent years are the safest years in history to be a cop.

With a city in mourning, this might be the worst time to impose statistics and a tone of rationality. However, we need to be aware of the potential narrative that will try to bend problems associated with gun culture into a larger, movement unassociated to justify the inequity of the criminal justice system towards Black people.

This past May, Governor John Bel Edwards signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill into law, making Louisiana the first state in the nation where public safety workers are considered a protected class under the hate-crime law. In many states, hate crime laws call for additional penalties for those convicted of crimes targeting victims on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. Targeting police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel now fall under Louisiana’s hate crime law.

“Blue Lives Matter” legislation is a distraction from the over-policing of Black and Brown people and wastes time focusing on a non-existent problem, instead of addressing the real problem of police bias and racial profiling. While the population of Baton Rouge is over 50% Black, two-thirds of the police department is White.  The police department has a history of mistreating its citizens.  So much so, that the Baton Rouge police department has been under a federal consent decree since 1980–and has had more than 30 years to improve its minority recruiting.  ‘Blue Lives ‘ Advocates argue criticizing the police fosters animosity towards law enforcement.

Doesn’t a killing of an unarmed Black person also foster animosity towards law enforcement?  The power and prevalence of smartphones and social media allow us to document and watch unarmed Black people die in real time.  Where is the support for “Black Lives Matter” legislation?  What laws protect the Alton Sterlings in Louisiana?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers or quick fix solutions. What can we do now?

DEMAND President Obama issue an “Executive Order” that compels the Department of Justice to issue uniform police guidelines and standards that must be adhered to by police departments across the nation. This includes training, conduct, recruitment, use of lethal force, traffic stops, racial profiling, body cameras, and the prosecution of misconduct by police officers.

We can register to vote. We can vote. We can show up at the polls and elect officials who are committed to ending brutality by holding people accountable. Voting local matters. Join Hip Hop Caucus in the #RespectMyVote movement. #ElectoralRevolution

If you are living in Baton Rouge, you should know on November 8, 2016,  every East Baton Rouge city councilperson (all 12) are up for re-election.  Also the mayor, sheriff, one Senator and, two Congresspeople will be on the ballot. If you don’t live in Baton Rouge, register or pledge to vote for people who will act.  Do your research on each candidate and decide the immediate impact they will have once elected into office. Your vote matters!
And lastly, continue to keep your smartphones charged.

Document. Report. Ignite change. #RespectMyVote #StayWoke

Posted by: Lisa Fager, Director, Public Policy and Solutions

The data regarding police casualties presented in this blog was obtained from The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc., and analyzed by Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, for the Facebook Post, “An Honest Prayer for Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”

The Hip Hop Caucus’ Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. On P. Diddy Calling Voting A Scam

Original article posted on HipHopDX

Link to original post:

July 14, 2016 | 4:13 PM

by Ural Garrett

Los Angeles, CA – Two of the nation’s biggest issues have revolved around police brutality and the upcoming presidential election. This is why HipHopDX felt it was necessary to speak with The Hip Hop Caucus’ President and CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.

Founded in 2004, the goal of the organization is to connect the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. The nonprofit and nonpartisan entity emerged from Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network, Jay Z’s Voice Your Choice, AFL-CIO’s Hip Hop Voices and P. Diddy’s Citizen Change a.k.a. Vote or Die.

During the interview, Yearwood Jr. spoke on how The Hip Hop Caucus kept its distance as a nonpartisan organization while using Hip Hop to enact change and used the 2008 Presidential Election as an example.

“When we created the Respect my Vote campaign in 2008, many people were excited about President Barack Obama,” he said. “I mean they was like ‘Man we gon have a Black President!’ We held true actually that we wanted to be non-partisan. We had our polls tested are you really non-partisan, are you really just saying that? We actually had our biggest test when we had the first guy running for office. Everybody was leaving the organizations to be behind him. We actually said that while we’re excited about having the possibility, at that time, of the first Black president, we remained true that it’s not about who we endorse, but who endorses us.”

Celebrities and rappers alike throughout time have pushed for many to join the political process. In October of last year, many were surprised when P. Diddy reversed his stance on voting by calling it a scam. Yearwood Jr. spoke with the media mogul about his attitude toward the political process and learned that Diddy had more of an issue with campaign financing.

“Me and Diddy actually met New Year’s Eve in Miami and we had a great conversation,” he explained. “So he’s full-heartedly, and I can say for this, he’s 100% behind the Hip Hop Caucus’ endeavor, to engage and register voters, but his points of dealing with it until we get campaign financial reform, until we deal with issues of voting rights, are very true. It won’t matter until we deal with that.”

Yearwood Jr. says that the Caucus understands and fully supports Puff Daddy’s statements while balancing its initial mission.

“We’re dealing with that,” he says. “We’re dealing right now with the issues of voting rights, and we’re trying to educate our communities and get new – and get the voting rights act strengthened. We’re pushing for issues of campaign financial reform and making sure that we don’t just have unlimited resources put in by corporations that devalue one voice and one vote in their community and we’re pushing this.”

Among other topics, Yearwood Jr. took the time to speak on the upsurge in police brutality including the recent deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“There’s a lot of anxiety. People are upset about seeing the continuous of young Black men and Black women being killed by law enforcement so there’s a lot of anxiety in our communities to want to see justice,” Yearwood Jr added. “To want to see change happen and besides that, I feel because I work with Hip Hop Caucus to feel empowered because the organization like Hip Hop Caucus is out here, and around to fight for justice and equality in this country.”

Check out the video below and please register to vote here.

YOUTUBE Video Link:

Cleveland hip-hop artist encourages voting


NBC Cleveland Online:

CLEVELAND – As the country gets closer to election season, a group of Cleveland hip-hop artists is teaming up to get more young people to vote.

This is a part of the Hip-Hop Caucus’ “Respect My Vote” campaign. The artist gathered Tuesday for a photo shoot that will be used during voter registration events.

There are also other forms that will help teach the importance of voting to promote change in their communities.

Read Original Article on NBC Cleveland Interview: Birdman Goes Off On The Breakfast Club

In a much anticipated interview, Birdman stopped by The Breakfast Club this morning and things quickly escalated. He was upset and immediately cursed them out before the interview even began. “I want to start this s*** off straight by telling all three of ya’ll to stop playing with my name! Stop playing with my f****** name!”

Charlamagne Tha God asked him to address what the issue was but he refused to do so. He stated that he had already talked about it. He told Charlamagne Tha God that he wanted to see him like a man to his face. He knew a few places where he was at and could have pulled up but he didn’t think that was gansta so he wanted to look him in his face.

Charlamagne questioned if he had pulled up on Rick Ross or Trick Daddy like that, both of which had made comments about Birdman while on The Breakfast Club. This made him upset and stated that he’s pulling up on him. After Charlagmane stated that he’s the radio guy, “Why are you pulling up on the radio guy?” he decided to walk out of the interview.

Check out interview below to see what went down.

Read original article on Power 105.1 FM

BLACKENTERPRISE.COM: Hip Hop Caucus Founder, Rev. Yearwood Launches Respect My Vote!

BE Politics caught up with Hip Hop Caucus Founder and CEO, Rev. Lennox Yearwoodto discuss the launch of Respect My Vote!

This week, the Hip Hop Caucus launched Respect My Vote!, a national non-partisan campaign aimed at mobilizing young voters to participate in the political process. BE Politics caught up with Hip Hop Caucus Founder and CEO, Rev. Lennox Yearwood to discuss the launch of Respect My Vote!

 [Related: Trump’s Campaign of Anger and Fear takes Center Stage in Discussion on Race]

With history-changing campaigns such as Vote or Die and Voice Your Choice under his belt, Rev. Yearwood is no stranger to mobilizing young voters. He often appoints celebrities as spokespeople and ambassadors for his get out the vote campaigns, using their platform and fame to make the electoral process more appealing to young people. Yearwood also uses celebrities to attract another, often ignored portion of voters: ex-offenders.

Full Article


METRO.US: Respect My Vote! campaign looks to engage voters on Election Day and beyond

The overall purpose of the campaign is to push individuals to get involved in all elections that can shape their communities and lives.


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.

Full article