With their phones still in their hands from the text-a-thon they had just completed, Mississippi Valley State University students snapped pictures and recorded videos while rapping along with artists on the stage in the Walter Roberts Auditorium on Oct. 24.
MVSU was the third stop of the day for the “HBCU Get Out the Vote Tour” that the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hip Nation and NLess Entertainment co-sponsored. The tour provided students from several of Mississippi’s historically Black colleges and universities an opportunity to mobilize voters ahead of the Nov. 7 elections.
Mississippi State Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Waikinya Clanton told the Mississippi Free Press that recent election turnout suggests residents suffer from voter apathy. In 2022, only 32% of Mississippi’s voting-age population cast a ballot—the lowest voter turnout rate in the country. In response, the SPLC created Activate Mississippi, a multifaceted initiative that reached out to high school and college students to educate, engage and mobilize them to vote.
“In last year’s midterm election, we had fewer than a third of eligible voters in the State of Mississippi participate in that election,” Clanton told the Mississippi Free Press on Oct. 31. “That’s alarming because we have one of the largest populations of Black voters than any other state in the country. That’s a huge opportunity for us to really be able to positively impact our elections here in the state.”
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, the SPLC organized the tour that began at Jackson State University and visited Tougaloo College, Mississippi Valley State University and Rust College. Clanton said the integration of hip-hop music added a connection for students beyond regular speeches and rallies.
“We thought it would be a great way to not only engage young voters around what was happening when it came to their voting rights here in the state, but that it would also give us an opportunity to really invite some cultural influences into the work of civic engagement,” she said.
During the event, students sent voter-mobilization text messages, reminding residents to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and
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