One Mind. Two Million Voters.

Russell Simmons and Doug Banks Launch Ambitious Voter Registration Drive

On January 19, Russell Simmons's Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) and syndicated morning radio show host Doug Banks officially kicked off their "One Mind. One Vote" political-empowerment campaign, an effort that seeks to register 2 million voters in the next six to nine months and 20 million in the next five years. In the process they plan to create a national voter-information database.

As onlookers crammed the windows of ABC's Good Morning America studios to gawk at recording artists that included L.L. Cool J, Rev. Run, Loon, Da Band, and Jadakiss and Styles P. of the Lox, Banks and Simmons stressed the importance of voting and encouraging others to vote, especially in light of the complications arising from the 2000 election. They tied the drive's kick-off to the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday. "Everybody that was [a part of the conference] talked about coming together, mobilizing and doing exactly what Dr. King did 40, 50 years ago," said Banks. "Here we are in 2004, doing the same thing, except this time it's to make sure that you get out and your voices are heard."

The press conference took on the air of a revival meeting when rapper Freddrick of Da Band stood up to speak and then announced his intent to register. Rapper Jadakiss and Israeli-born "Hiphop Violinist" Miri Ben-Ari also signed up during the course of the proceedings. "I just became a citizen a few months ago," said Ben-Ari. "This is going to be my first time [fulfilling] my right as a U.S. citizen to vote. I'm very excited."

"One Mind. One Vote" has already come under fire because some of the rap artists involved with the initiative are not registered to vote or have not voted with any consistency. Referring to January 14's am New York cover story, Minister Benjamin Chavis-Muhammad, HSAN's CEO, said: "I guarantee that every artist that [am New York] had listed in that article will be registered and they will be encouraging young people to vote. I think it's disingenuous for the press to start attacking artists when they make a commitment."

 
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