The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

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Apr 16, 2008

New School Activists Say They Want Less Talk And More Action From Elected Officials

Washington, DC - The game is on. The blame game, that is. However, as national elected officials continue spinning their wheels hurling well-crafted sound bites at each other, a group of young activists is quietly making strategic moves, determined to flip the script. This week the members of Black Youth Vote! (BYV!) went into full gear for the final days of a three-month, 10-state, voter registration drive.

BYV!, the youth initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), was lauded for having a major impact on the record increase in young voters during the 2004 presidential election. In 2006, they decided to step up their game and focus on making a slam-dunk in the mid-term election as well.

“These young people represent a new day in politics. They want to be a part of mapping out what their future looks like,” says Melanie L. Campbell, executive director and CEO of the NCBCP. “After ten years of teaching and preaching, I am proud to say that they are learning the connection between their everyday life and elected officials. They are developing new, innovative techniques to keep the movement moving,” Campbell adds.

Determined to “Keep it Moving,” the youth can be found in the most unexpected places preaching the gospel of “Vote and Be The Change.” You may find Hadari Brown registering voters at a frat house at Tennessee State University, or Stephanie Moore visiting the jailhouse in Kalamazoo Michigan. While Le'Kedra Robertson is hosting a backyard barbecue at a trailer park in Baton Rouge, LA; Jordan Thierry is in the nation’s capital text messaging the thousands of young people they’ve already registered, reminding them to verify their names on the voting rolls.

“We register voters at concerts, homecoming events, and high schools. Wherever young people assemble is fertile ground for us. We are registering new voters, and also challenging them to be the change on Election Day,” said Irene Schwoeffermann, BYV! national coordinator.

Schwoeffermann notes that a real connection is made with the youth once the volunteers educate the individual on the significance of the 435 House seats up for election. She adds, “We explain how the elected officials will have the power to influence issues that impact their daily life. Matters like a college debt or the cost of gasoline in their state. They get the picture when you connect the dots.”

According to Bradley Starks of Persuasion fx, a DC based political consulting firm, said, “It is certainly a wake-up call when political bickering overrides crisis issues like the economy, disappearing jobs, and healthcare. These young people are just starting a lifetime of voting. It’s a growing demographic that should not be ignored.”

Now in its 10th program year, NCBCP’s BYV! is dedicated to motivating the “Hip Hop” generation to effect change in their communities by active involvement in the civic process. This year BYV! partnered with Young Voter Strategies to register 350,000 voters aged 18-30 years old. Young Voter Strategies, a nationwide initiative involving 12 organizations, is a non-partisan project of The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

In addition to the voter registration blitz, the group partnered with Brothas Inc. Entertainment in Georgia to produce a rap song featuring 18-year-old Atlanta rapper, RisQue (aka Llana Clarke), entitled “The Movement.” The BYV! theme song will be released as a radio PSA later this week.

Natasha Jennings, Alabama BYV! coordinator, adds, “Like the BYV! song says, politics needs to be less about talking and more about action. It’s time for our leaders to move forward with a clear cut agenda that addresses our issues, or get out the way!”

For more information call 202-659-4929.

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