The lights were low and the music was blasting while thousands of young, screaming, eager voters waited for rappers Sean “P.Diddy” Combs and Mary J. Blige in Wednesday evening.
Combs and his fellow stars are out to mobilize 42 million young people to get out to the polls, with his non-partisan, non-profit organization Citizen Change that started July 20, 2004.
Their effort combined with the effort of other groups may be working.
The mission of Citizen Change’s “Vote or Die” campaign is “to make voting hot, sexy and relevant to a generation that hasn’t reached full participation in the political process.”
They were able to accomplish that when they rolled into McGonigle Hall to an audience of an about 5,000 young people.
“He got us excited and he related to us,” said freshman Tyneise Wilson.
People 18 to 30 years old make up one-quarter of the voting population, but only half of these individuals were registered to vote in 2000, according to Citizen Change’s Web site, www.citizenchange.com.
Combs said he created Citizen Change to tell these “forgotten ones” how important it is to get out and let their voices be heard. He said he’s “trying to do what hasn’t been done before.”
This year, polls have shown a 15 percent increase in the number of people in the young voting demographic who say they are registered to vote, according Pew Research independent pollster Andrew Kohut.
Combs said he wants to change the face of politics. He emphasized the fact that the politicians are not paying attention to the young voters because young voters are not paying attention to the politicians.
Freshman Demaris Trapp has taken notice of Combs’ efforts.
“He’s changed my view of the importance of voting. Young people will come together to make a change. If we all vote, we can feel proud and say we did it; 20 million proud, 20 million loud,” said Trapp.
Citizen Change started their Vote or Die Tour Tuesday in Milwaukee and headed to Pittsburgh after attending Temple. Combs chose Temple for a few reasons.
“It’s so diverse. It’s in the heart of Philly and they welcomed me the most,” said Combs.
“Temple’s population is representative of the demographic that this organization is trying to reach,” said Marquerita Calicat, senior director of Student Services. “Temple being a diverse urban institution, he wanted to make sure to mobilize the students.”
Temple Student Government and Main Campus Student Program Board, sponsored the event, hoping this will help increase the voter turnout Nov. 2. When the students arrived they were asked to sign a pledge card that said they would go out and vote and take two friends with them.
“He’s gotten me hyped about [voting],” said freshman Latoya Brown.
Combs and Mary J. Blige came on stage for a 40 minute program during which they spoke about the importance of getting out to the polls and voting.
“Vote for yourself and because you have the power to make a difference and the power to change,” said Combs to the lively crowd.
“I’m here as an example as someone who never voted before,” said Blige, who added that she now understands the importance of voting after the last election. She spoke about issues that touched her personally. “These are serious times we are in,” she said.
In the last election, 40 million women did not vote, said Blige, explaining why she took the time out to speak to the women in the audience.
“Women are the backbone of this country. Without our backbone, this country will collapse,” she said.
Young people are the “wild cards” and will be responsible for choosing the next president, Combs explained after Blige finished her speech.
“It’s a wake-up call,” he said of the power of young voters. After this election, he said the “forgotten ones” will be “respected as a bona fide voting block.”
Combs argued that politicians need to address healthcare and education that young people can afford. He explained young voters will no longer sit on the sidelines and drew cheers with his rallying cry: “Our revolution has begun.”
Combs also emphasized that minorities in this country have not had the right to vote for that long. “People have died for us,” he told the crowd. He then asked everyone to raise their fists in the air. “Do you see this?” he asked the audience, “All colors and creeds together. King’s dream has come true.”
Leonardo DiCaprio did not show up as expected. Some students chose not to attend the event.
Junior Antoinette Johnson saw the long line and decided not to wait. “[Young people] are saying ‘vote or die’ because P. Diddy says it, but not because they feel that way about the issues,” said Johnson. “Most people were there to see the stars.”
Instead, Johnson attended the Operation Truth program, which was also held Wednesday evening. The program included three officers who fought in Iraq and are now going around speaking to groups. “There were maybe 20 kids at that. It’s a matter of importance,” she said.
Hannah Davis can be reached at templenews@GMail.com.