First Avenue hip-hop concert promotes MN YouthVote cause

Amy Hackbarth

Elianne Farhat went to First Avenue Tuesday night to hear the hip-hop group Eyedea & Abilities. But by the end of the night, the 17-year-old walked away with a new appreciation for voting.

The band, other hip-hop groups, students and government officials gathered at the YouthVote Rally to emphasize the importance of youth voting. Nearly 300 people attended the concert.

“The music is what attracted us, but the cause is really great,” Farhat said. “You can tell the speakers are really passionate about voting and they have a lot of statistics to back their opinions up. It makes me want to get involved.”

MN YouthVote, a nonpartisan coalition of local organizations, organized the rally to reach an audience of young people through hip-hop music.

The coalition selected Eyedea & Abilities, Los Nativos, C.O.R.E., Subzero Collective and Secretly Drowning to perform at the concert, based on their popularity and the strength of their messages.

“This is a big venue, and we
didn’t want the place to be empty,” said Deb Salls, one of the event’s organizers. “But we also wanted the performing groups to care about why they were here.”

Between performances, student leaders and political speakers urged the audience to become involved in politics. Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, Rep. Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said voter turnout is important.

“You’ve got to put it on the ballot and put it in the ballot box,” Kiffmeyer said. “Sitting around whining at home just won’t cut it.”

Walker, 29, and Sertich, 25, know how hard it can be as a young person in the Legislature.

“Trying to represent the minds of young people when you’re the only person under 30 in a room of 50 people can be difficult,” Walker said.

Patrick Peterson, a 22-year-old University senior running for a position on the Minneapolis School Board, spoke at the rally to inspire others to get involved in politics.

As a gay man growing up in the Minneapolis School District, Peterson said, he was happy to live in a diverse environment. Now he wants to represent that diversity by working with schools and the city.

“Schools are where most people interact with the city,” Peterson said. “It’s important that people and diversity are represented so we can deal with problems in Minneapolis in a creative way.”

Adonis Frazier, known as “Supaman A.D.” in C.O.R.E., said the group participates in a number of youth volunteer programs. And he said voting can be easy.

“If you can teach a kid to carry a 9 mm handgun, you can teach a kid to vote,” he said.