With only hours left in the election, celebrities across the country are mobilizing to encourage everyone to vote, from Bruce Springsteen to Jay Z. But as this inconceivably draining election cycle finally comes to an end and fatigue sets in, your average pep rally just ain't cutting it. To squeeze the last ounce of election day excitement out of anyone — especially millennials — is going to take some serious talent. Luckily, some of rap's top-tier lyricists came to Miami to get the job done.
Last night, on election eve, healthcare union 1199SEIU and the NAACP Youth and College Division held a pre-election rally inside Florida Memorial University with an array of special guests including Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Pusha T, T.I., Jay Electronica, Kosine of Da Internz, Zoey Dollaz, and Lajan Slim. The goal was to give one final plea before the last day of voting.
More specifically, the concert was meant to target young voters of color — an increasingly crucial and powerful political demographic — to make their voices heard.
iHeartRadio’s Angie Martinez flew down from New York City to host the special event along with YesJulz, who circulated in the crowd speaking to students about the importance of the vote. Throughout the night, Martinez preached about the political process in between introducing esteemed talent and respected members of the community to speak. The president of Florida Memorial University, Roslyn Clark Artis, made the opening remarks before T.I. came out to speak.
The rally would be as much about conversation as it was about music, and each artist decided to deliver their words differently. T.I. stood at the podium as he recited an inspirational poem about voting and social justice. Pusha T enticed the attendees with his own moving speech about the importance of getting out to the polls and casting a vote for our next president. Gucci Mane was also present to stress how imperative it is to hit the polls before it’s too late.
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“We need to vote to stop police brutality,” Gucci said while glistening in an all-white ensemble. “We need to vote to stop all this mass incarceration. All of these issues aren’t just personal to you and your family — they affect me. I wish I had my right to vote. I feel like after I’ve served my time, I shouldn’t be punished for the rest of my life.” Gucci, like many other convicted felons in the state of Florida, was stripped of his right to vote for the rest of his life.
Other activist groups like the Dream Defenders and the Sierra Club also hit the stage to urge each and every person in the room to get out on Tuesday. Dream Defender and one-half of Little Haiti's Smoke Signals Studio Umi Selah led the crowd in a moving chant as his partner, Aja Monet, a fellow Dream Defender and acclaimed poet, blessed the crowd with two poems that received snaps and raised fists.
Civil rights activist Tamika Mallory delivered a powerful speech that truly put the election in perspective. “We are all on the ballot,” Mallory said, as she explained how freedom is truly at stake this year. “You either have a seat at the table or be on the menu.”
Other speakers who stepped up to the microphone included president of 1199SEIU George Gersham; director of the Civil, Human and Women's Rights wing of the AFL-CIO Carmen Berkley; and Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton and brother Jahvaris Fulton.
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Toward the end of the evening, the music finally started with performances from Rotimi, 070 Shake, and Jay Electronica. With Stevie J and Sam Sneak behind the DJ booth, Rick Ross even appeared to perform a slew of hits along with MMG’s Whole Slab.
Between songs, Rozay actually took some time to answer questions from the crowd about voting and his thoughts on the election cycle. He ensured the crowd that he would be at the polls on election day casting his vote just like everyone else.
Unlike many rallies we've seen in Miami this past month, the specific names of the candidates weren't the focus. Rather, the event was about pulling back the curtain on the democratic process and helping a new generation realize just how much power they possess — whether they know it or not.