Vote Hope 2008 :2: Lennox Yearwood
|Vote Hope :: 2 of 6|
The Vote of the Dream Generation
Sarah van Gelder: Last election season, the Hip Hop Caucus mobilized a lot of young people to vote. Can you talk about what you did, and what you're planning for 2008?
Yearwood: We were mobilizing the Hip Hop Generation—what I call the Dream Generation, because we are the first generation born after Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. We are the ones working together—black and white and Latino, male and female, straight and gay.
We had a goal of registering a million people, and we actually registered 1.3 million people. We did it over the Internet, though summits, town hall meetings. We also used TV, culture, PSAs, radio ads, and peer-to-peer contacts.
We're going to be mobilizing again in 2008, but it will be difficult this year. The people came out in 2006. They put a lot of faith in voting and literally changed the scene from Republican to Democratic. Some of them felt the election was stolen in 2000, and was stolen again in 2004, and now they're discouraged that this current Congress had the clearest mandate but didn't work against this war, didn't respond to Katrina, didn't put forth a healthcare plan, didn't fix education. So it becomes harder to ask people to become involved, to vote, if they don't think that the structure itself is even worth voting in.
Sarah van Gelder: What is your long-term strategy?
Yearwood: First, we're really beyond party-line politics. We have to be issue-based.
What I want to tell my generation is to be involved, because this is a long-term process. We have to get big money out of elections; we have to return the power back to the people.Elections and politicians need to be more aligned to the people's concerns than the corporate concerns.
We know this won't be changed by 2008 or even 2012, possibly even 2016. But when you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly—so by the 2020 election we can see more clearly a better structure of politics in America.
Sarah van Gelder: Do you see opportunities during this election season to change the direc-tion that we're taking with the war?
Yearwood: I do. But I will say this: most of the candidates—-Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton—are already members of Congress, so they can actually change things now. I don't want them to wait until one of them becomes president.
Speaker Pelosi took impeachment off the table, and I would just say she's taking something off the table that is the people's constitutional means of recourse.
There are two issues that literally can destroy us as humans. If we don't fix the Middle East, if we don't return respectability to our country, the situation can spin out of control. Likewise with the climate—if we don't fix that then literally we are going to destroy ourselves. Ironically these issues are connected, because of our dependency on fossil fuels.
Sarah van Gelder: Are you doing organizing at the local level that sustains in between the big presidential elections?
Yearwood: That's an excellent question. This issue really showed up with Katrina. We did voter registration in Louisiana in '04, and other groups did as well, but there was no sustainable organization after the election. If there had been, then the people could have mobilized and organized themselves much better for Katrina. That was probably one of the most disastrous things that we learned.
People are wondering why we aren't like the conservatives—why aren't we building from the bottom up? Why are we working from the top down? When really, the best way to build power in our communities is from the dog-catcher, from the sheriffs, and the prosecutors to the president of the United States.
Sarah van Gelder's interview first appeared in Liberate Your Space, the Winter 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is the Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.
Listen to and read Sarah's full interview with Rev. Lennox Yearwood in original, transcript form.
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